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.


Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

Updated 10 min 46 sec ago
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Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

  • Former PM Nawaz Sharif may not be able to spearhead PML-N's election campaign
  • The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The electoral success of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hangs in the balance as its most charismatic leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is outside the country and may not lead his party’s campaign ahead of the July 25 polls, analysts say.
“If Sharif doesn’t return from London to Pakistan by next week, his party may face huge losses in the upcoming elections,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday.
The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” Malik said.
Sharif is in London visiting his wife Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who has been on a ventilator since June 14 and has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer since August 2017.
“Do you think it is appropriate for me to return to Pakistan when Begum Kalsoom is fighting for life?” Sharif asked on Saturday.
He said he had planned a four-day trip to London, but is now unsure about returning to Pakistan due to her health. Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been in the UK since June 15.
“The Sharif family is passing through a difficult time, and the situation could adversely impact their party’s electoral prospects,” Malik said.
An accountability court hearing three separate corruption references against Sharif, Nawaz and others is scheduled to conclude the trial by July 9, as per the Supreme Court’s instructions.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding the prime minister’s office, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file corruption references against him and his family members.
“Even after being disqualified from holding any public office, Sharif still enjoys public support,” political analyst Rasul Bukhsh Rais told Arab News.
But if the accountability court convicts Sharif in the graft cases before the elections, this would demoralize his party and PML-N voters, Rais said.
His younger brother, who has become the party’s president after Sharif’s disqualification, “may not be able to run an effective election campaign,” Rais added.
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, the PML-N’s information secretary, said Sharif and his daughter will return to Pakistan to lead the party’s election campaign once his wife’s health improves.
“Our detractors will be disappointed. The PML-N will win a clear majority in the elections under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif,” Khan told Arab News.