Dubai celebrity chef could face prosecution for anti-Islam comments

Kochhar, who was born in India, is a renowned international celebrity chef, TV star and author of three best-selling cookery books. Rang Mahal is his first fine-dining Indian-cuisine restaurant. (Eddie Keogh/REUTERS)
Updated 13 June 2018
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Dubai celebrity chef could face prosecution for anti-Islam comments

DUBAI: A renowned celebrity chef in Dubai could be prosecuted after making comments on Twitter about Islam.
Atul Kochhar, who runs the popular Rang Mahal restaurant in the Dubai Marriott Marquis hotel, is also facing a boycott of his restaurants and calls for him to be sacked.
The row erupted after he posted a now-deleted message on Twitter on Sunday night in response to a post by Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, in which she said she was sorry that some people had been offended by the portrayal of Hindu nationalists as terrorists on her US TV show, “Quantico”.
He wrote: “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.”

The now-deleted message on Twitter by Atul Kochhar

Twitter users quickly responded, criticizing Kochhar for his remarks and suggesting that he should not be working in a Muslim country if he feels badly treated by Muslims and Islam.
Several people tagged Dubai police in their responses.
“Dear Dubai Police, this guy earns in Dubai while (he) defames Islam by saying it is a religious of terrorism,” wrote @RoflMessi.
Social media laws are very strict in the UAE. Online comments found to be spreading sectarian hate or racism, especially in connection with Islam and Muslims, are a criminal offense and the chef can be prosecuted.
“The UAE’s anti-discriminatory law criminalizes all forms of discrimination on all grounds of religion, belief, sect, faith, creed, race, color, or ethnic origin,” said lawyer Yamini Rajesh, the managing director of Yamini Rajesh Legal Consultancy. She added that anyone convicted of breaking the law could face imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of between 500,000 dirhams and 1 million dirhams.
Perhaps realizing the severity of the situation, Kochhar posted an 
apology. He wrote: “There is no justification for my tweet, a major error made in the heat of moment on Sunday. I fully recognize my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologize. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many.”



Bosses at the JW Marriott Marquis also apologized on Twitter, writing: “We are aware of the comments made by Chef Atul Kochhar. We would like 
to stress that we do not share the same views stated in the remark, nor is it a representation of the culture of diversity and inclusion that we pride ourselves on at the hotel.”
UAE law can also hold employers responsible for ensuring their employees follow the rules, said Rajesh, adding that companies “should ensure that appropriate internal policies and procedures are established to raise employees’ awareness and understanding of the type of conduct which could now constitute a criminal offense under the law.”
He continued: “Article 17 of the law states that a representative, manager or agent of a company will be punished with the same penalties that would apply if she or he has committed the offense themselves if the crime…is committed by any personnel of the company in its name and on its behalf, and provided that the representative, manager or agent is aware of the same.”
Despite the apologies, some people called on the hotel to sack the chef. One Twitter user said he would boycott the hotel while Kochhar remains there. Another wrote: “No more Rang Mahal Dubai for me. And you need history lessons on Islam.”
Kochhar, who was born in India, is a renowned international celebrity chef, TV star and author of three best-selling cookery books. Rang Mahal is his first fine-dining Indian-cuisine restaurant in Dubai.


Israeli student murdered in Australia while on phone with sister

Updated 13 min 32 sec ago
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Israeli student murdered in Australia while on phone with sister

  • Police appealed to the public for help tracking down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found near Melbourne University
  • Police are still investigating the case

SYDNEY: An Israeli student has been killed in a late-night attack in Australia while she was speaking on the phone with her sister, police said Thursday.
Police appealed to the public for help tracking down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found early Wednesday near the campus of the Melbourne university where she was studying.
“This was an horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city,” Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters in Melbourne Thursday.
Maasarwe, who was reportedly five months into a year-long exchange at Melbourne’s LaTrobe University, was riding a tram home from a comedy club to the suburb of Bundoora before she was met by her attacker around midnight.
She was talking on the phone with her sister, who was overseas and raised the alarm after something went awry mid-conversation, police said.
“(Her sister) heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices,” Stamper said.
Her body was found Wednesday morning by passers-by at 7:00am about 50 meters (165 feet) from the stop where she exited the tram.
Stamper said the report from her sister came in at about the same time.
Police would not confirm reports they were investigating a sexual assault but said known sex offenders are an “active line of enquiry.”
Officers retrieved a black baseball cap and a grey t-shirt they believe were worn by the perpetrator from the crime scene, which they described as “very distressing.”
The victim’s family, who are on their way to Australia, described Maasarwe as “happy,” “adventurous” and “smart.”
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it... the day before my wife had said to me, ‘We’ll have to go to Australia, Australia’s very safe, very nice’,” the victim’s uncle Rame Maasarwe told national broadcaster ABC from the United States.
“We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia, we think it’s very safe there.”
Maasarwe was reportedly planning to go to China to work with her father’s business after her studies.
Police said they were “confident” of finding the perpetrator.