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Clamour for action against JW Marriot Marquis Chef over Islamophobic Tweet

Thursday June 14, 2018 0:16 AM, UNA-OIC

Atul Kochhar

Dubai: The residents of the United Arab Emirates are calling for the sacking of a Michelin-star chef in Dubai for his "anti-Islam tweet".

Atul Kochhar, head chef of the popular Rang Mahal Indian restaurant at the JW Marriot Marquis hotel, received flak after taking a dig at Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra for an episode of the television series Quantico where she uncovers a terror plot by Hindu nationalists.

In the episode ‘The Blood of Romeo’, Chopra’s character Alex Parrish and her team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are on the trail of a potential terrorist activity that they believe has been orchestrated by Pakistan. But Parrish discovers that one of the terrorists wears a “rudraksh” chain, which leads her to infer that Hindu terrorists were behind the plan.

Priyanka later apologised saying, “I’m extremely saddened and sorry that some sentiments have been hurt by a recent episode of Quantico. That was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologise. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change.”

Atul Kochhar however was not satisfied with her apology.

"It's sad to see that you have not respected the sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorized by Islam over 2000 years. Shame on You (sic)," Kochhar wrote on Twitter.

After backlash, Kochhar deleted the tweet and put out an apology, saying the "major error" was "made in the heat of the moment on Sunday". "There is no justification for my tweet ... I fully recognize my inaccuracies that Islam was founded round 1400 years ago and I sincerely apologize. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many."

JW Marriot hotel distanced itself from the chef's comments. “We are aware of the comments made by Chef Atul Kochhar. We would like to stress that we do not share the same views as stated in the remark, nor is it a representation of the culture of diversity and inclusion that we pride ourselves on at the hotel," tweeted JW Marriot Marquis on Monday.

The anti-Islam tweet created a furore on social media, with twitterati calling for firing the chef. Responding to the hotel's tweet, a Twitter user, Irena Akbar, said: "But now that there is a clear clash of values (your tolerance vs his bigotry), how can you carry on such a relationship? His contract should be snapped."

Addressing the hotel, another resident, who uses the Twitter handle, Desi Baba, said: "What action have you taken against this communal bigot? Will you let him continue or remove him to walk the talk?"

Popular commentator and Arab journalist Khaled Almaeena tweeted: "You (Kochhar) have offended me.. As a person who loves India its people no matter what their caste or creed. As a secular and liberal, it truly is a horror statement." Some residents said they would boycott the restaurant. "Chef celebrity showed his true colors. I won't eat here after reading the racist tweets by the head chef," posted a resident on his Facebook page.

A Twitter user, Ali, said, "I have cancelled my wedding anniversary meal for next month at your restaurant. You knew exactly what you meant as you tweeted that message.

Some other Twitter users pointed out that Kochhar has run a successful restaurant in the United Arab Emirates, where Islam is the official and majority religion, for many years now. Many announced they would stop frequenting his restaurants. Some said they had cancelled reservations.

“I sure hope Benares Restaurant is not terrorised by all its Muslim customers. I’ll make sure I take the longer walk around Berkeley Square and avoid your shop-front. Don’t want you to feel threatened by a 5.2 Muslim woman,” Halima Nawaz tweeted to the swish Mayfair restaurant’s Twitter handle. Benares, which serves modern Indian food, got a Michelin star in 2007.

Halal Gems, a London-based halal restaurant finder app, was the next to react. Founder and chief executive officer Zohra Khaku said she was disappointed to see Kochhar’s message, especially since his restaurants benefit from Muslim clientele. “Sadly this is not the only case of people with bigoted views actively soliciting income from Muslim customers,” she said in a statement. Halal Gems said they would henceforth not promote any restaurant associated with Kochhar.

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