July 25, 2017
By now, you’ve probably heard the stunning news that my friend and colleague on the board of CFI, Professor Richard Dawkins, has been summarily de-platformed by KPFA, a radio station in Berkeley, California. KPFA not only canceled a standing engagement to have Richard speak on his new book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, but did so without contacting him first, or giving him the opportunity to respond to their unfounded allegations.
Instead, KPFA, which by the way had hosted Richard in 2015, contacted the ticket holders, unjustly contending that this respected evolutionary biologist had engaged in “abusive speech” against Islam. It is not abusive to criticize a religion’s tenets and ideas. Prof. Dawkins is a responsible and insightful critic of all religions, including Islam, Christianity, and other faiths.
Richard, in his inimitable way, responded thoughtfully in an email to KPFA:
I used to love your station when I lived in Berkeley for two years, shortly after that beloved place had become the iconic home of free speech. I listened to KPFA almost every day during those years, and I regularly contributed to your fundraising drives, grateful for your objective reporting and humane commentary while I participated in the People’s Park and Vietnam war demonstrations. It was therefore a matter of personal sorrow to me to receive this morning your truly astonishing “justification” for de-platforming me.
My memory of KPFA is that you were unusually scrupulous about fact-checking. I especially admired your habit of always quoting sources. You conspicuously did not quote a source when accusing me of “abusive speech”. Why didn’t you check your facts — or at least have the common courtesy to alert me — before summarily cancelling my event? 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 mysogyny 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, expecially Muslim women.
I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that. Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?
You say I use “abusive speech” about Islam. I would seriously – I mean it – like to hear what examples of my “abusive speech” you had in mind. When you fail to discover any, I presume you will issue a public apology, which I will of course accept in a spirit of gratitude for what KPFA once was. And could become again.
As you can see, Richard is a kind man, even in the face of unfounded criticism. However, kindness cannot deter us from fighting as hard as we can against this severely troubling action by KPFA. Who will be unfairly painted with bigotry next?
It is through questioning and unfettered debate that humanity has made the advancements we value.
KPFA’s stance is like the justification nations use to defend their blasphemy laws. Yet, as we know, blasphemy laws around the world serve two basic purposes: to insulate bad ideas and backward ideologies as well as persecute nonbelievers or a minority faith. Here at CFI, we have spent more than forty years fighting blasphemy laws while promoting the core values of reason and science. When we criticize religion, we don’t criticize nonviolent religious people. We also don’t criticize religious people who don’t try to forcibly impose their views on others. The victims of religious dogma are often people of that same faith, and we unfailingly champion their equal rights.
Now it’s time for all of us to stand up for Richard Dawkins. Please join me in supporting CFI and its important work, which, as you probably know, now includes the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.
Please donate today, to send a message to all who want to stifle the free exchange of ideas. I will lead the way with a considerable matching donation, so your gift will go twice as far.
Click here to donate right now, and I will match your gift up to a total of $100,000. Together, we will stand up to the bullies who want to silence one of the world’s greatest science educators and one of its most sensible defenders of a reality-based worldview.
Board Chair, Center for Inquiry
P.S. Your donation is fully tax-deductible. Please give today, and I will match your donation.