King's College London to Revoke Honorary Degree from the Sultan of Brunei

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Dear King’s College Council,

We are writing to you an open letter regarding the implementation this week of Brunei's interpretation of Islamic law.  This penal code threatens a maximum penalty of death by stoning for consensual gay male sex and 40 strokes of the cane, or 10 years imprisonment, for consensual lesbian sex. The penal code also threatens the death penalty for adultery and apostasy, and amputation of hands and feet for theft.

King’s granted an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei for his commitment to higher education in 2011. In 2014, the Sharia law penal code was initially tabled. A staff member raised this at Principal Byrne’s inaugural Principal’s Fora, and later met with the Principal to discuss the concerns of LGBTQ+ staff regarding this issue.

The lack of action from the College in 2014 resulted to the formation of this network. It saddens and outrages our community to know that King’s continues to avoid tackling the issue head-on, which it could do by revoking the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree.

In 2016, King’s launched their strategic Vision 2029 with the aim of “Making the world a better place”. The College’s silence undermines our institution’s core values, and by doing nothing endorses the Sultan’s draconian penal code. This silence is an insult to King’s LGBTQ+ community, and the LGBTQ+ citizens of Brunei.

We have noted this week that an honorary degree conferred by the University of Aberdeen in 1995 is now up for debate. Their honorary degrees committee is considering revoking the degree. Even before a decision has been reached, the rector of the University of Aberdeen has made a strong statement condemning Brunei’s new penal code.

We note also that KCL’s LGBTQ+ student society has asked the College to act, and that the Principal has now, finally, raised “urgent concerns”.

Proudly King’s would like to see the following immediate action from King’s:

-       Revocation of the Sultan’s degree

-       A statement in strong condemnation of Brunei’s Sharia penal code

-       An apology to King’s LGBTQ+ community (students, staff, alumni) for the College’s lack of urgency up until this point, with an acknowledgment that the College’s response since the issue was first raised to the Principal almost 5 years ago has been a source of distress to the community.

-       An urgent review of the process for the award of honorary degrees, with a focus on the ethical implications of any individual award, and the effect on the King’s community of awarding and honouring individuals who contravene and threaten our progressive, liberal and inclusive values.

We look forward to hearing from you.



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