A Dubai hotel has distanced itself from Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar following a call to boycott his restaurants after a controversial tweet about Islam.
Kochhar is a well-known name in Dubai with his popular Rang Mahal Indian restaurant at the JW Marriott Marquis hotel.
“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,” Bill Keffer, General Manager, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai wrote in an emailed statement to Gulf News tabloid!
Kochhar’s now deleted tweet saw the chef responding to actress Priyanka Chopra’s mea culpa over a Quantico episode that portrayed Hindu nationalists as terrorists.
“It’s sad to see that you have not respected the sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorised by Islam over 2000 years. Shame on you,” Kochhar wrote, before retracting it a day later and calling it a “major error made in the heat of the moment.”
However, the viral post immediately sparked outrage on social media.
“Dear @atulkochhar could you clarify the tweet you made. 2000 years of terrorizing Hindus, can you give some concrete examples please? As you’ve offended many people,” posted Twitter user Hasan Patel.
Twitter user PPSham posted: “Don’t usually call out individuals on Twitter. However this tweet symbolises our misunderstandings of religion. In every religion you will have people that will utilise it for evil! Surely we should see beyond sweeping generalisations! #Freedom #Education @atulkochhar.”
Following Sunday’s tweet, Kochhar issued an apology for his factual "inaccuracies" and denied he was "Islamophobic".
“There is no justification for my tweet, a major error made in the heat of the moment on Sunday,” he posted, adding: “I fully recognise my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologise. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many.”
However, the apology has yet to appease many, who continued to call out the chef.
“I had a lot of respect for you and I now feel quite deflated by your comment. It’s particularly disappointing because you come across as a reasonable person most of the time,” wrote A’ish. “Your comments are also potentially damaging to the perception of Hindus — it’s important therefore to remember that the vast majority of Hindus do not hold hostile feelings towards Muslims. I hope people will realise this.”
“I have cancelled my wedding anniversary meal for next month at your restaurant,” posted Twitter user Ali_b86, adding: “You knew exactly what you meant as you tweeted that message. Disgusted.”
However, there are others who have accepted Kochhar’s apology, with Twitter user DubaiNameShame posting: “Thank you @atulkochhar for the clarification, as someone who has met you I fully accept your apology and look forward to continue dining at your amazing #RangMahal #Dubai @JWDubaiMarquis life is too short, Respect and my regards to you and your family.”
Dr Bilal Hassam also tweeted: “Dear Atul, would love to help you engage with Muslims, deepen your understanding of the faith and why your comment caused such hurt. Plz get in touch if interested.”
The ‘Quantico’ controversy
Quantico, which airs of ABC, featured a controversial episode on June 1 in the US where Priyanka Chopra’s character Alex Parrish is seen thwarting an attack on an international summit by Hindu nationalists who plan to blame the violence on Pakistan.
The show upset fans for playing on the real-life historical tensions between the two nations ahead of a summit between India and Pakistan in China.
The network also issued a statement following the social media outrage, stating: “ABC Studios and the executive producers of Quantico would like to extend an apology to our audience who were offended by the most recent episode, ‘The Blood of Romeo.’ The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it.”