Cliff May

Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres brought a smile to my lips last week – and not by saying anything funny.

They were out in the not-so-fresh air on Sunset Boulevard demonstrating against the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, properties owned by the Sultan of Brunei who, as the New York Times reported, this month began enforcing “a new penal code that will permit the stoning of gays and adulterers in his home country.”

This could be the start of something big: Hollywood mandarins declaring war on such penal codes -- also known as sharia, a key component of the Islamist agenda.

Christopher Cowdray, London-based chief executive of the Dorchester Collection, the luxury hotels’ parent company, encouraged that – albeit inadvertently. He said that those calling for a boycott of the Sultan’s hotels “appeared to have overlooked human rights abuses in the homelands of others who own businesses around the world. In London alone, he said, a number of favorite hotels have owners in Saudi Arabia and other countries that enforce harsh aspects of Islamic law.”

The Leading Lights of Show Biz also might want to inquire into the legal status of gays in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Palestinian territories. (Spoiler alert: Islamic penal codes in both Iran and Gaza list homosexuality as a criminal offense punishable by death.)

Nor are gays (and adulterers) the only oppressed minorities in what we have come to call the Muslim World. Until now, however, gender apartheid, honor killings, female genital mutilation and the persecution of ancient Christian communities have inspired yawns among the glitterati. The plight of the Baha’i and the Kurds, genocidal threats by Iran’s rulers against Israelis, and Palestinian television shows teaching preschoolers to kill Jews haves left them fighting vainly the old ennui.

It dawned on Mr. Leno that in recent days Americans have been outraged over Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for expressing what appeared to be racial bias: “I mean, we get so upset when a team owner says something inappropriate,” he said. “Here are people being killed, stoned to death .... It's just a matter of priorities, that's what it is.”

Then, perhaps channeling John Kerry (who recently accused Vladimir Putin of behaving “in 19th century fashion”), Mr. Leno added: “This is 2014, not 1814.”


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.