Richard Dawkins KPFA event canceled over ‘abusive speech against Muslims’

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KPFA, a radio station based in Berkeley, canceled an upcoming event with English author and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins after concerns were raised about Dawkins’ “abusive speech against Muslims,” according to a KPFA press release published Monday.

The Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit educational foundation, announced in a press release Friday it was “stunned and deeply dismayed” to learn of KPFA’s cancelation of its event with Dawkins, which had been scheduled in August at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley.

In its release, KPFA cites tweets sent by Dawkins between 2013 and 2015 that feature commentary from Dawkins on Islam and Islamic practitioners. In one tweet that was cited, Dawkins calls Islam “the greatest force for evil in the world today.”

In a second tweet, Dawkins suggests to his followers to “always put Islamic ‘scholar; in quotes, to avoid insulting true scholars.”

“We serve a broad and diverse community, including many Muslims living under threat of persecution and violence in the current political context. Islamophobic rhetoric stokes that threat,” KPFA wrote in its release. “While Mr. Dawkins has every right to express his views, KPFA has every right not to sponsor and profit from an event spreading them.”

Paul Fidalgo, a spokesperson for the Center for Inquiry, said KPFA made the decision to cancel the Dawkins event “on their own” without providing any warning.

Fidalgo also noted that KPFA held a fundraising event with Dawkins as part of a book tour in October 2015 that passed with little controversy.

According to Fidalgo, “there is often a confusion about the distinction between criticizing a group of ideas (and the) demonization of an entire group of people.” KPFA’s cancellation appeared from their vantage point to be “a kneejerk reaction on the part of the radio station to some of Dawkins’ louder detractors.”

It’s disappointing that this opportunity has been lost,” Fidalgo said. “The people who were so interested in seeing Mr. Dawkins are going to miss this unique opportunity to see this leading thinker.”

According to its press release, since canceling the event, KPFA offered Dawkins an opportunity to discuss the matter on its radio airwaves, but has yet to respond.

In an open letter addressed to KPFA published online Friday, Dawkins wrote it was “a matter of personal sorrow” to receive a “truly astonishing ‘justification’ for de-platforming” him.

In his open letter Dawkins criticized the opposition of Islamic ‘scholars’ to evolution and other scientific truth” and “the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam,” but claims he has been “far from attacking Muslims” themselves.

“Why didn’t you check your facts — or at least have the common courtesy to alert me — before summarily canceling my event?” Dawkins wrote in his open letter. “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.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.

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  • Tony Cragun

    How about you fix the title. He has never directly insulted a Muslim for being Muslim. He can’t be abusive to an idea, which includes all religions. Fix your abusive speech

  • D.Plorable

    Abusive speech against Islam is unecessary. Merely citing the correct historical sequence of ithe repeated invasions of Europe–starting in the early 700s and continuing to this day–is adequate. But this will get you in trouble too; a Christian minister in Canada was charged with a bias crime for writing a letter to a newspaper citing the invasions of Europe after 9/11.

  • Dennis Bidlake

    They have abused Dawkins for his beliefs.

  • rychastings

    leftist censorship!

  • This is absolutely ridiculous. Criticizing someones beliefs is not the same as hating someone and equating these things is dangerous in that it protects potentially dangerous ideas (Islam, in this case). All ideas should to be aired and considered, even if there is disagreement. That’s the whole point of our First Amendment’s freedom of speech. The bad ideas will ultimately be rejected, if they are truly bad.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Was Dawkins engaged to speak on biological issues, or was this to be more of his amateur religion-bashing?

    It might be worth pointing out that he is just as obnoxious about Christianity and Judaism. And how funny that First Congo was going to be the venue–but that’s the UCC for you, a neo-Christian denomination that hates the faith and sabotages it at every opportunity.

    • It was supposed to be a live discussion and book signing, as Dawkins is promoting his new book, “Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist”.

      • D.Plorable

        I was interested to get a look at the book to see what he had to say about the emerging field of epigenetics–he dismisses it with a half-sentence mention. Looks like a case of ignoring the evidence you don’t like (epigenetics presents evidence that is destabilizing to textbook Mendelianism, better to pass on Dawkins’ self-congratulatory victory lap and explore this newly-developing field–good starting point at http://www.WhatIsEpigenetics.com)

    • D.Plorable

      No doubt the primary “draw” was the opportunity to hear him disparage religion, kind of like the way the lemmings lined up all the way up Bancroft hoping to get in to a Chomsky appearance at Zellerbach so they could hear him bash America. (Only they missed the fact that he was going to speak on his unbelievably boring theory of linguistics.)

  • Left Unsaid

    KPFA has no problem when the hate speech is directed at conservatives. That station has lost its mind, and my donations. Yes, i was dumb enough to give them money in the past.

    • D.Plorable

      They presented Michael Shermer a while back and advertised him as a “scientist”. (He’s actually an adjunct lecturer on Economics, which at this point is less credible than astrology.) What next, Bill Nye giving a rap performance about transgenderism?