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.

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.