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Berkeley Event With Richard Dawkins Cancelled Over 'Hurtful Speech' About Islam

A radio station in Berkeley, Calif. which had scheduled an event featuring notorious atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins, abruptly cancelled the event on Friday, arguing that it would not endorse Dawkins' "hurtful speech" about Islam.

"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," the radio station, KPFA, said in a letter to ticket buyers. "KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech."

"While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech," the station added. "We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins' views much earlier." The station also apologized for any inconvenience, and promised to refund the ticket cost.

The event, scheduled for August 9, was to promote Dawkins' new book Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Realist. The author — who had not been warned prior to the cancellation — responded with an open letter, denouncing the radio station and declaring that he had never engaged in "abusive speech" about Islam. He also hit the station on its hypocrisy in attacking him for his comments on Islam but never for his statements about Christianity.

"I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that," Dawkins wrote. (His most notorious book, The God Delusion, sparked the "new atheist" movement, which firmly denounced all faith.) "Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?"

Dawkins got personal in the letter. "I used to love your station when I lived in Berkeley for two years," he wrote, adding that he listened to KPFA almost every day and he "regularly contributed to your fundraising drives."

"My memory of KPFA is that you were unusually scrupulous about fact-checking. I especially admired your habit of always quoting sources," the author noted. "You conspicuously did not quote a source when accusing me of 'abusive speech'. Why didn't you check our facts — or at least have the common courtesy to alert me — before summarily canceling my event?"

Dawkins insisted that "rudimentary fact-checking" would have disproven KPFA's assertions of "hurtful" and "abusive" speech about Islam.

"I have called IslamISM 'vile' but surely you, of all people understand that Islamism is not the same as Islam," the atheist declared. He then listed many things he has attacked involving Islam, but never the religion itself.

"I have criticised the ridiculous pseudoscientific claims made by Islamic apologists ('the sun sets in the march' etc), and the opposition of Islamic 'scholars' to evolution and other scientific truths," Dawkins wrote. "I have criticised the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticised the murdering of apostates for no crime other than disbelief."