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.