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Dorchester hotel boycott grows over ties to Sharia law

The Beverly Hills Hotel.
Education Images | UIG | Getty Images
The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson has joined the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Fry and some fashion designers who said they are boycotting the luxury Dorchester Hotel chain over the owner's ties to the introduction of Sharia law in the Sultanate of Brunei.

"No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights," Branson tweeted Saturday from his personal Twitter account.

The Dorchester Collection, which includes the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel Air Hotel, The Dorchester and several other luxury-level properties around the word, is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, a branch of the Ministry of Finance of Brunei.

At issue is the decision of the oil-rich state to adopt a strict form of Sharia law that would call for the severing of limbs for theft, as well as stoning to death for adultery or homosexual acts, according to the BBC. Enforcement would be limited to within the borders of Brunei.

The annual Global Women's Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and Mavis Leno, moved from the Beverly Hills Hotel as part of the boycott. The awards, scheduled for Monday, will instead by held at the Hammer Museum. The rights group said the former late-night talk show host will take part in a "StopTheSultan Rally" on Monday afternoon in the park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel, along with United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta and others.

Christopher Cowdray, the chief executive officer of the Dorchester Collection, said boycott should not be directed at the hotels and its employees.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech during the official ceremony of the implementation of Sharia Law in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 30, 2014.
STR | AFP | Getty Images
Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech during the official ceremony of the implementation of Sharia Law in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 30, 2014.

"The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers," Cowdray said Monday in an email to CNBC. "During this challenging time, we have been deeply touched by the tremendous support received from our loyal guests and long standing business partners who recognise that Dorchester Collection hotels are part of the fabric of their local communities. We will continue to honour their iconic heritage and remain committed to our core values of integrity, equality and diversity."

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The boycott has been gaining steam for weeks.

"I won't be visiting the Hotel Bel-Air or the Beverly Hills Hotel until this is resolved," DeGeneres tweeted April 22 with a link to a Daily Beast story headlined "Brunei Returns to the Stoning Age."

On April 26, Stephen Fry tweeted: "Cancelled in nick of time: discovered @CoworthParkUK that I was booked into is part of the 'Dorchester Collection.'"

Sharon Osbourne piled on April 28: "Please join me in BOYCOTTING @BevHillsHotel, @HotelBelAir and all @DC_LuxuryHotels."

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Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.

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