University has “not taken decision” on revoking Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree, despite pressure from SU

The student union argued that the Sultan "failed to meet" the standards of a recipient of an honorary degree from Oxford after the introduction of new anti-LGBT laws.

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The University has resisted demands by the Student Union to strip the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiaj, of his honorary doctorate.

Speaking to Cherwell, a spokesperson for the university said “We share the international condemnation of Brunei’s new penal code and back the United Nations’ call to stop the code entering into force.

“At present, the University has not taken any decision on rescinding the Sultan of Brunei’s 1993 Honorary Degree of Civil Law by Diploma.”

Oxford awarded Bolkiah an honorary degree of civil law by diploma in 1993. In this role as Sultan, he functions as head of state and prime minister, and is the second longest-serving monarch in the world.

A spokesperson for the University earlier told PinkNews that “at present, the University will not be rescinding the Sultan of Brunei’s 1993 Honorary Degree of Civil Law by Diploma.”

“We share the international condemnation of Brunei’s new penal code and back the United Nations’ call to stop the code entering into force.”

In a Facebook post, the SU stated: “All honorary doctorates should reflect the ethos of the University. We want to create a safe and inclusive society for all and the people who receive this type of honour should be held to a high standard.

“If they fail to meet that, as in this case, they should be stripped of their honour. We have written to the Vice Chancellor to ask them to remove the degree.”

The Sultan’s new laws prescribe death by stoning for sodomy and adultery. Other laws that will be introduced include amputation for thieves, and flogging for abortion. It is believed that these new laws come under the Sultan’s wish to adopt some of the tougher elements of Islamic religious law.

“I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger,” Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a public address, according to AFP news agency. There was no mention of the strict new interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law.

Bolkiah first stated his intention to introduce sharia law to the country in 2013.

Other universities have been quick to review accolades they have given to Bolkiah, including King’s College London and the University of Aberdeen.

A University of Aberdeen spokesperson told PinkNews: “The University of Aberdeen is inclusive and open to all.

“In light of this new information this matter will be raised as a matter of urgency with the University’s Honorary Degrees Committee.”

King’s College London has also confirmed that the university will review an honorary degree it gave to the sultan eight years ago.

Oxford SU has been contacted for comment.

This article was amended on the 3rd April to clarify that the university had yet to make a formal decision.

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