Gather round citizens, for global superstar George Clooney, 90s heart-throb, 2000s serious movie star, and 2010s husband of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, has done that thing that we seriously love – he’s gone and mentioned Malaysia on one of his celebrity talk show interviews.
Not just any talk show – Ellen – the globally broadcast phenomenon slash midday mana when you’re sat at home on a Tuesday trying to sweat out your flu/hangover.
Only, he not telling TV’s most generous host about the great time he had in Langkawi, or about an orangutan conservation he just built. Nope – he’s singled out both Malaysia and Indonesia, and aligned both of us with our neighbor Brunei, who recently introduced harsh punishments as part of their Sharia Law roll-out, and recently backtracked on them.
Peep this first:
The Sultan of Brunei passed a law that made being gay punishable by death. George Clooney spoke up. I couldn’t be more grateful. pic.twitter.com/TYZNdrHMN8
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 9, 2019
OK recap: A couple months ago when Sharia Law punishments came into effect in the Sultanate of Brunei, many members of the international community were alarmed to hear that among the punishments that would now be meted out was the stoning to death of homosexuals.
For the record, being a homosexual in Malaysia is not illegal, but sodomy is – thanks, colonialism!
Many Hollywood elite were appalled to find out that the owner of beloved haunts that include the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Dorchester in London was none other than the man behind the stoning laws himself, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. The called for a boycotting of his hotels and businesses.
“The way you make it difficult is by boycotting his hotels. That doesn’t matter so much to a rich guy, you can’t shame the ‘bad guys’, but you can shame the people who do business with them.
“And when the banks and financial institutions started saying ‘well, we are out of the Brunei business’, then he backed off, and changed and said ‘put a moratorium’ on it,” Clooney told fellow boycotter Ellen, and in effect – hundreds of millions of views across the world.
Now things took a turn for the interesting when Clooney claimed that shaming was ineffective in passive-aggressively making countries change their policies, but as it were – the Hollywood muscle guiding spending was, and showed their celebrity embargo mattered.
He went on:
“…it sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia who also are considering these laws, that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say “don’t even get into that business, so that’s the reason you do it.”
Right. George. Jorge. Sit down. Can we talk?
While Malaysia is a Muslim nation, only one state rules with strict Islamic laws – Kelantan. We are certainly guilty of failing our LGBTQ+ community, and this is something that this publication talks about at least once a month, usually appalled, and always disappointed. However, we’re a long way from stoning anyone to death. Geez.
Local activists have weighed in on the matter, with Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy Pelangi Campaign in Malaysia, telling Reuters.
“I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground.”
“Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,“ Afifi said. “His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.”