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

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.

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 9 min 31 sec ago

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • The churches hit were in the north of the capital, and the town of Negombo, just outside Colombo
  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services

COLOMBO: At least 129 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, police told AFP, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted.
There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared to be a “well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”
The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital.
Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.
“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.
Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.
An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant.
He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes.”
“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”
“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.