If you’re trying to get a table at the Polo Lounge, now’s the time. The famed eatery at the Beverly Hills Hotel has been practically deserted by Hollywood’s power elite.
The reason is the imposition of Sharia law in Brunei this month by the Sultan of Brunei, who happens to own the hotel. The law isn't in effect in Beverly Hills or at the hotel, but patrons of the place — who number among entertainment’s elite — have voted with their feet to condemn the imposition.
What is Sharia law? It means the “way” or “path,” and is used in legal situations and daily lives where it is practice to regulate behavior based on Islam. It’s not a big book which someone can pull off the shelves and turn to “sodomy, practice of.” Instead, it’s an amalgamation of interpretations of the Qur’an, Hadith (sayings traditionally attributed to Mohammed), and discussions among scholars and laymen. As such, the implementation of Sharia can be a little haphazard, depending on what side of the mat your ruling Mullah woke up on and where you’re located. Sharia is considered the ideal law of God and is said to strive toward justice, fairness, and mercy.
Under Sharia law, you can be subject to jail, fines, amputations, public flogging, or death by stoning.
A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Sharia in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Sharia. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries.
Under Sharia law, you can be subject to jail, fines, amputations, public flogging, or death by stoning. Such offenses as not having a long enough beard, wearing indecent clothing, discussion of the faith by non-Muslims, publicly eating or drinking during Ramadan, theft, adultery, and homosexuality are considered criminal behavior.
That’s the technical part of it. In practice, the standards that have to be met to be convicted of a violation of something major are pretty strict. For someone to be convicted of adultery, there must be four witnesses. And yes, the Qur’an says a thief should have his hands amputated, but there’s a way out — if he repents.
Any observant Muslim would consider themselves a Sharia adherent. Countries where it’s actively practiced include Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, and Syria. There are also countries with Islamic family law courts available for their Muslim minorities: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
There are ways that Sharia law is applied in the US. In the classic example, a US court judge may have to rule on a marriage that took place overseas under Sharia law. But for the most part, our country relies on the laws that are codified by lawmakers, not religious leaders (although, let’s face it, religious leaders have and continue to hold a very heavy sway).
Even thought Sharia is a somewhat foreign concept, and no one is really lobbying hard for it over here, that hasn’t stopped six US states from freaking out and passing “foreign laws” bills, which prevent the courts from using the influence of other countries in its decisions. North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee have these laws on the books.
It remains to be seen how the Beverly Hills Hotel boycott will work out. It could set a bad precedent, as many hotels are owned by concerns and countries that have objectionable behaviors in their background, making for a slippery slope indeed when it comes to deciding where to stay.
One thing is sure — the Sultan of Brunei, who imposed the law on his people, is allegedly not a strict follower. But mentioning that would be yet another violation if its was said out loud in Brunei.