In 2013, Obama called the Sultan of Brunei, “My good friend” and praised his “great leadership”. A year earlier, he had proposed lavishing $6 billion on a Green Energy partnership of mostly Muslim countries that including the oil-rich Brunei.
The Sultan’s passage of Sharia law normally should not have changed anything. Most of the Muslim world has some form of Islamic law and criminalizes homosexuality. Certainly no one stages massive protests against Qatar or the UAE. But gay groups decided to challenge Brunei’s Islamization with a boycott.
Obama has cracked down on Uganda, but routinely ignores the persecution of gays in Muslim countries. So he’s stayed good pals with the Sultan.
Speaking at a protest in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday, actress Frances Fisher called for “contacting the Obama administration and Members of Congress and urging them to ban Brunei from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The TPP is a dangerous pact in its own right.”
The very day Brunei was phasing in Sharia law, Obama’s chief trade negotiator Michael Froman was on Capitol Hill selling the TransPacific Partnership, which would bind the U.S. to Brunei and give the Islamic Sultanate special economic privileges.
If the Obama administration gets its way, Brunei could bypass U.S. courts and go before an international tribunal to sue for lost profits from the boycott being pushed by the city of Beverly Hills, Hollywood celebrities and human rights advocates.
There’s already a sizable movement underway against the TPP. This provides them with more ammunition. TPP is dysfunctional and in practice it’s a series of crony capitalist negotiations that advantage some industries in some countries at the expense of others. No one much likes it, in or outside the United States.
And the backlash over Brunei suddenly provides a new wedge issue.