A Californian radio station has sparked a public row over free speech after cancelling a planned speech by Kenyan born British scientist Richard Dawkins.
The British biologist and renowned atheist, had been booked to speak about his latest book at an event hosted by Berkeley-based station KPFA.
However, the speech was pulled, with organizers citing ‘hurtful’ statements made by Dawkins about Islam.
While which specific remarks prompted the cancellation remain unclear, online commentators have highlighted a 2013 tweet in which Dawkins described Islam as “the greatest force for evil in the world today”.
@ToddKincannon I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today. I've said so, often and loudly.What are you talking about?
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 1, 2013
Dawkins has not taken the cancellation lying down however and has said his issue is not with Islam but Islamism, and pointed out that he had never been barred from events for criticising Christianity.
“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 apologise for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins’s views much earlier. We also apologise to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation.” – KPFA statement
The 76-year-old author responded in an open letter to the radio station which read: “If you had consulted me, or if you had done even rudimentary fact-checking, you would have concluded that I have never used abusive speech against Islam.
“I have called IslamISM ‘vile’ but surely you, of all people, understand that Islamism is not the same as Islam.
“I have criticised the ridiculous pseudoscientific claims made by Islamic apologists (“the sun sets in a marsh” etc), and the opposition of Islamic “ scholars” to evolution and other scientific truths.
“I have criticised the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticised the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief.
“Far from attacking Muslims, I understand – as perhaps you do not – that Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism, especially Muslim women.”
He also said that he is known as a frequent critic of Christianity but had never been de-platformed for that, adding: “Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?”