Chef Atul Kochhar apologises for ‘anti-Islam’ tweet

Chef Atul Kochhar, of the Michelin-starred London restaurant Benares, has had his contract with a Dubai hotel terminated after he tweeted an “anti-Islam” sentiment.

Responding to an episode of US TV programme Quantico, which stars Priyanka Chopra, Kochhar tweeted: “It’s sad to see that you [Chopra] have not respected the sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorized by Islam over 2000 years. Shame on You.”

The episode depicted a terrorist plot hatched by a group of Hindu nationalists in a bid to frame Pakistani Muslims, provoking outrage among Indians, and even Chopra apologised for the storyline at the weekend.

While politically complex, historic frayed relations between the two religions can be traced to the 16th century when the Muslim Mughals rules parts of what is now modern India, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, before being displaced by the British.

Pakistan regained independence from India in 1947, and remains an independent Islamic Republic, while India helped Bangladesh gain independence from Pakistan in 1971.

After a swift backlash, which saw users call for people to boycott his Dubai restaurant and the JW Marriott Marquis hotel where Kochhar runs a restaurant, Kochhar deleted the tweets and later apologised, tweeting: “There is no justification for my tweet, a major error made in the heat of the moment on Sunday,” he wrote.

“I fully recognise my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologise. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many.”

Kochhar had been involved with the Rang Mahal restaurant in Dubai as well as five others in the UK and Spain within the JW Marriot group. On Wednesday, the hotel chain confirmed it was terminating its contract with Kochhar.

“Following the recent comments made by chef Atul Kochhar, we have taken the decision to end our agreement with him for Rang Mahal,” it said in a statement. “At the JW Marriott Marquis hotel Dubai we pride ourselves on creating a culture of diversity and inclusion for our guests and associates across the hotel and our restaurants.”

Indian-born Kochhar appeared in MasterChef in the UK and India and is based in London, having founded Benares in Mayfair. It was awarded a Michelin star 2007.

Kochhar said in a statement: “The decision by JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is deeply upsetting, however I fully accept the great pain I have caused and the difficult position the hotel has been put in.

“I have great respect for JW Marriott and in particular their staff in Dubai and wish the hotel well for the future. I hope my friends and well-wishers in Dubai will forgive me and continue to support me in the future.”

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