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Richard Dawkins deplatformed at a book talk in Berkeley for “abusive speech” about Islam on Twitter

Richard Dawkins deplatformed at a book talk in Berkeley for “abusive speech” about Islam on Twitter

Richard Dawkins was supposed to speak at this event in Berkeley on August 9: a talk about his new book, As you see, the talk has been canceled.

But why? You can guess. The talk was to be sponsored by a Berkeley radio station, KPFA, and they made this announcement—but didn’t even inform Richard before deep-sixing the event. Through the ticketing agency, Brown Paper Tickets, KPFA sent out this email with the “reasons”:

From: Brown Paper Tickets 
Date: July 20, 2017 at 2:04:53 PM PDT
To: [NAME REDACTED]
Subject: Notification for Richard Dawkins: Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist

Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,
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.

Sincerely,
KPFA Radio 94.1 FM

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the termites have spread to Berkeley, and have dined well on the wooden heads of the Deciders. Although there are undoubtedly a few authoritarian Dawkins-bashing atheists who will be pleased at this, it’s a terrible blow for free speech, and likely a big disappointment for those who hoped to see Richard. I’m sure that some of the Perpetually Offended, with perhaps Muslims among them, complained to the radio station, and KPFA caved.

I asked Richard about what happened, and what KPFA was. He emailed his response, which I reproduce with permission:

KPFA, like so many, is guilty of confusing free speech with “abusive speech”, banning a talk, and thus depriving people of the chance to hear Richard–and probably ask him questions or even criticize him. Here’s the station’s inevitable “but”:

While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.

Give me a break! Criticism of ideas is not criticism of people, nor is it “abuse.” Shame on KPFA for not realizing this, and for their craven behavior in canceling the talk.

If you wish to write to KPFA, their website is here, and their contact information is . I’ll be writing them for sure.

Dawkins is not Milo Yianopoulos; his “abusive speech” is simply criticism of religion in general, including Islam. I guess believers can’t bear to hear that criticism, and they didn’t have to go to that talk. But what right do they have to prevent others from hearing it?

Berkeley was, you’ll recall, the home of the Free Speech Movement. How low the city has fallen!

_________

UPDATE: Here’s an email I sent to the station:

Dear KPFA,

Your cancellation of Dawkins’s talk was unconscionable. His speech has not been abusive towards Islam, but has involved criticism of religious dogma–and of all faiths. That is free speech, not “abusive” speech. All meaningful speech hurts some people’s feelings, but in this case there was no “abuse.” Can you point to any?

Your craven behavior towards this talk, and caving in to those who want to prevent others from hearing it, is unconscionable. How dare a radio station commit such a blatant violation of the First Amendment?

Shame on you.

Jerry Coyne

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Typical arrogance & control of what people can read/hear/see......

Yea and what I cant stand is its from Berkeley the home of the free speech movement in the 60s. How crazy.

Well we all know they seem to be going backwards.....sigh......

To: Quincy McCoy, KPFA General Manager, and Laura Prives, KPFA Program Director

Dear Quincy and Laura,

I am writing to protest the cancellation of the Richard Dawkins event. According to your notification statement “KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech” or “abusive speech” that Dawkins allegedly expressed in his twitter account and other sources. I have known Richard for a quarter century and follow his twitter feed and other public commentary sources, and I have never once seen him express hurtful or abusive speech against any person or any group of people. Richard is critical of wrong, bad, and dangerous ideas, not people, and although he has been critical of religion, as a great many scientists are (myself included), it is the religion’s ideas, not followers, of which we are skeptical.

As well, you appear to be hypocritical in this recent denunciation of Dawkins inasmuch as you have hosted him many times in the past, as a quick search of your website shows. In 2012, for example, Richard talked about “the virus of faith”, particularly Christianity. In 2013 in spoke about his book The Greatest Show on Earth, which was highly critical of creationism.

This is consistent with my own appearances on KPFA when I’m in Berkeley on my book tours. Your hosts—and by extension your station—never once objected to my critical comments on creationism in particular or Christianity in general, which I expressed many times.

So it would seem that KPFA has bought into the hypocritical stance held by many on the left that it is acceptable to criticize Christianity and Judaism but not Islam, even if it is just the ideas of these religions one is critiquing. Why?

Sincerely,

Michael Shermer
Skeptic Magazine
Scientific American
P.O. Box 338
Altadena, CA 91001

Resolution on Richard Dawkins

The International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience in London, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, is concerned that Richard Dawkins, an invited speaker at the conference, has been de-platformed by the radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California because of his alleged “hurtful” comments on Islam.

Professor Dawkins is a well known critic of all religions, whose long-standing attacks on Christianity have never resulted in anything approaching de-platforming. Indeed he has aired his views on KPFA itself. Belatedly, KPFA seems to have noticed that Islam is not exempt from his criticism. They have applied a hypocritical double standard in cancelling his appearance in Berkeley, and have disappointed the large numbers of people who had bought tickets to hear him.

Given that most of the speakers and delegates at our conference are Islam’s apostates, many from countries where the legal penalty for apostasy is death, we find it necessary to remind KPFA that criticism of Islam is no different from criticism of Christianity or Judaism. Also, criticism of Islamism is no different from criticism of the Christian-Right, Jewish-Right or Hindu-Right. Criticism of religious ideas as well as violent religious political movements isn’t bigotry but integral to free conscience and expression and vital for human progress.

We call on those – like KPFA – who should be our natural allies and ‘progressives’ whose freedoms and rights are largely the result of the fight against the church and Christianity not to betray or deny the same right to Islam’s critics, non believers, and dissenters.

Progressive politics means fighting on many fronts, including against bigotry, xenophobia, the far-Right, which includes Islamism, and for freedom of conscience and expression.


Read the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s full statement.

I would LOVE to hear what Hitch would say!

They would probably have banned Hitch as well. idiots.

Agreed.

Richard Dawkins insists he has never criticised Islam - but a 2013 said it was the 'source of all evil' Getty Images

Richard Dawkins insists he has never criticised Islam - but a 2013 said it was the 'source of all evil' Getty Images

Richard Dawkins hits back at allegations he is Islamophobic after Berkeley event is cancelled

Comes after resurfacing of old tweets

The controversial scientist and writer Richard Dawkins has hit back at claims of Islamophobia after a US radio station cancelled his appearance.

The evolutionary biologist was due to address an event hosted by KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California in August, but the station cancelled due to what they said was “abusive speech against Islam”.

In an email to people who purchased tickets to the event, published on Mr Dawkins' website, the organisers said: “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 views much earlier.”

Although the radio station isn’t affiliated with University of California, Berkeley, local media reported it had been alerted to Mr Dawkins’ tweets about the religion earlier – including a 2013 tweet saying “Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today”. 

But in an open letter to the organisers Mr Dawkins insisted he “never used abusive speech against Islam” and instead his harsh comments were directed at “IslamISM” (sic) – a political interpretation of the religion often used to justify ex...

He said: “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.

“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?”

The author is known as an outspoken critic of religious belief – in 2006 the wrote The God Delusion which castigated faith-based explanations for the universe saying evolutionary theory was superior and atheism was evidence of intelligence.

Just read that on G+ myself.

He always know what to say!

I'm glad people are starting to ask why we are being prevented from criticising Islam. 

NSS expresses support for 'deplatformed' Richard Dawkins

The National Secular Society has expressed its support for Richard Dawkins after a radio station cancelled one of his speeches because of his criticisms of Islam.

Professor Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and honorary associate of the NSS, was due to address an event hosted by KPFA Radio in California next month. He was expected to discuss his new book Science in the Soul. But last week the station announced that it had cancelled the event because of his "abusive speech against Islam".

"We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science," KPFA wrote in an email to ticket holders. "We didn't know he had offended and hurt so many people.

"While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech."

KPFA, which is funded by supporters, describes itself as a "progressive talk radio and music radio station". Reports suggested listeners had complained over previous statements which Dawkins had made, including a 2013 tweet which said "Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today".

In a response on his foundation's website, Professor Dawkins called the station's justification for its decision "truly astonishing". He also denied using "abusive speech".

"I have called Islamism 'vile' but surely you understand that Islamism is not the same as Islam.

"I have criticised the ridiculous pseudoscientific claims made by Islamic apologists, and the opposition of Islamic 'scholars' to evolution and other scientific truths.

"I have strongly condemned the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism, of which Muslims — particularly Muslim women — are the prime victims. I have criticised the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief. I make no apologies for denouncing those oppressive cruelties, and I will continue to do so.

"I would seriously 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."

KPFA then said in a tweet that it was exercising "its free speech right not to participate with anyone who uses hateful language against a community already under attack".

In a statement, the NSS said: "KPFA Radio has sided with religious fundamentalists who wish to hide from criticism. It has justified its decision by making a false distinction between 'serious free speech' and 'abusive speech'.

"The station has provided no evidence of 'hateful speech' against Muslims. Professor Dawkins has consistently made his opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination very clear.

"Healthy societies require free and open debate, including – and arguably particularly – when those discussions offend religious sensitivities. Decisions such as these have a chilling effect on free speech by discouraging people from speaking out about some of the most important issues of our time."

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