Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has once again apologised for his controversial tweets about Islam that resulted in a huge outcry followed by calls for boycott of his restaurants. This is the second apology that Kochhar has issued in the last two days about the massive controversy. Social media had erupted a couple of days ago when Kochhar’s tweet to Priyanka Chopra, following her apology to outraged Indian viewers after an episode in her ABC show Quantico showed an Indian nationalist as a terrorist, went viral.
Kochhar had slammed Chopra for not ‘respecting sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorised by Islam for 2000 years’, adding ‘Shame on You’. The tweets were later deleted but not before they were shared widely by Twitter users in the UAE and outside.
Angry fans called for boycott of his restaurants Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai and Benaras in Dubai and London. Twitter was flooded with remarks expressing outrage and shock over the comments. Several users threatened to stop patronising his restaurants. Many also criticised him for working in a Muslim country while spreading negative messages about Islam. London based halal restaurant finder app Halal Gems announced that they would not promote any restaurant associated with the Michelin-starred chef. Founder Zohra Khaku said she was disappointed to see Kochhar’s message, especially since his restaurants benefit from Muslim clientele. “Sadly this is not the only case of people with bigoted views actively soliciting income from Muslim customers,” she said in a statement.
Atul Kochhar immediately issued an apology, where he acknowledged his error and confessed that the comments were made in the 'heat of the moment'. He also said he was not Islamophobic and that he had erred when he suggested the religion was founded 1400 years ago.
Unfortunately, the move backfired as it was seen by users that he was sorry for getting his facts wrong and not apologetic about his views.
Realising the gravity of the issue, the hotel was forced to distance themselves from the comments. However, social media users still were not convinced and demanded further action. Some social media users also pointed out that the hotel had been receiving a huge volume of calls protesting against the remarks. It remains to be seen if the hotel will take any more steps to placate angry customers.
Kochhar’s second apology comes after reports that he may face strict action from the authorities for what can be construed as hate speech. The UAE has stringent laws against any form of hate speech or messages spreading racism or sectarian hate. Arab News reported that online comments found to be promoting hate, especially if they are related to Islam or Muslims, are a criminal offense and anyone flouting the law could face imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of Dhs 500,000 and one million dirhams.