A radio station in Berkeley, California, has pulled the plug on a talk scheduled to be given by Professor Richard Dawkins in August, much to the fury of free speech advocates.
KPFA, organisers of the talk, said it had cancelled the event because of Dawkins’ “abusive” comments about Islam. A statement from KPFA said:
We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.
KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.
This is what KPFA tweeted yesterday:
The Center for Inquiry reacted with alarm, saying in a statement that it was “stunned and deeply dismayed” by the cancellation:
The station alleged without evidence that the world renowned evolutionary biologist had engaged in ‘abusive speech’, against Islam, a justification that CFI considers absurd. Prof Dawkins is a renowned, responsible, and thoughtful critic of all religions, who KPFA had previously hosted in 2015, apparently undisturbed by Prof Dawkins’ criticism of some of the tenets and ideas of Islam, Christianity, and other faiths.
Said Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry:
Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest intellects of our time, with a wealth of wisdom and insight that he looked forward to sharing with his Berkeley audience. For KPFA to suddenly break its commitment to Richard and the hundreds of people who were so looking forward to seeing and hearing him is unconscionable, and the baseless accusation that Richard has engaged in ‘abusive speech’ is a betrayal of the values KPFA has, until now, been known for.
Prof Dawkins—whose landmark book The Selfish Gene was just voted the most influential science book of all time in a poll by the Royal Society – was scheduled to speak on August 9 about his newest book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, which KPFA itself called ‘excellent’.
The idea that I have engaged in abusive speech against Islam is preposterous, which even the most rudimentary fact-checking by KPFA would have made clear. I have indeed strongly condemned the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism, of which Muslims – particularly Muslim women – are the prime victims. I make no apologies for denouncing those oppressive cruelties, and I will continue to do so.
Last year, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science merged with the Center for Inquiry, and Prof. Dawkins joined the CFI board of directors.
In its forty-one-year history, the Center for Inquiry has fought proudly for human and civil rights, and Richard Dawkins is an invaluable ally for our cause. We (including Richard Dawkins himself) strongly opposed President Trump’s misguided and discriminatory Muslim ban. We have been at the forefront of the major civil justice causes of our time, and we have devoted ourselves to countering the outmoded, dogmatic prejudices and misinformation aimed at marginalized groups …
We understand the difference between a people and the beliefs they may hold. All of us must be free to debate and criticize ideas, and harmful ideas must be exposed. It is incredibly disappointing that KPFA does not understand this.
Hat tip: Antony Niall & BarrieJohn