Celebrity chef Atul Kochhar’s hateful tweet on Islam and Muslims is drawing global flak, and rightfully so. Although the co-owner of Dubai’s famed Rang Mahal restaurant has since apologised for his ‘hasty’ remark, the controversy shows no sign of going away too soon. The backlash — both from patrons and residents in Dubai and elsewhere — has been expectedly fierce. The Dubai-based JW Marriott hotel which houses Kochhar’s restaurant has already distanced itself from the chef’s remarks.
It is somewhat surprising that the 47-year-old restaurateur came up with a bizarre and an inaccurate assertion that “[Hindus] have been terrorised by Islam over 2,000 years…”. Kochhar, the first Indian chef to earn a Michelin star in London, should know a thing or two about history, diversity and pluralism. The fact that he comes from a tolerant Hindu tradition, and shot to fame in pluralistic societies like London and Dubai, only to expose himself as a closeted Islamophobe, sounds oxymoronic in itself. Perhaps befittingly Kochhar’s post has triggered a wave of online reactions from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Notwithstanding his public meltdown and calls for boycott by some, let us be clear about this: all expressions of hatred toward someone’s religion broadly constitute hate speech. Modern societies have no appetite for such bigotry.
Our world is composed of people from different backgrounds who follow diverse faiths and beliefs. To make grossly wild, hateful and bigoted remarks — especially if you are an inspiration to others — is unacceptable. Perhaps the most important tool Kochhar needs in his social media toolbox is the ability to be tolerant of others. And you don’t need a Michelin star for something as basic as that.