Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has asked why it's "fine to criticize Christianity but not Islam" after a California radio station dropped him from speaking and accused him of "abusive speech" against the Muslim community.
"I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that," Dawkins wrote in an open letter he shared on his website. "Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticize Christianity but not Islam?"
Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, was lined up to speak about his memoir A Brief Candle in the Dark at an event hosted by Berkeley's KPFA Radio in August.
However, on Thursday, KPFA informed ticket buyers that the event had been cancelled because the famed evolutionary biologist "offended and hurt" the Muslim community with his "abusive comments" against Islam.
"The KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech," said KPFA in an email to ticket buyers. "While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins's views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation."
In his letter, Dawkins called the decision "truly astonishing" and said that he had "never used abusive speech against Islam", adding that while he has called Islamism "vile", Islamism is not the same as Islam.
"I have criticized the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticized the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief," he explained. "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."
He called on the radio station to find examples of abuse, and said that when it "failed] to discover any", he would expect a public apology.
In a report about the cancellation, KPFA said it had been contacted by activists who had described Dawkins as "a very well-known Islamophobe" and cited tweets from the author including one that read: "I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today".
It also referenced a recent Telegraph article in which Dawkins was quoted as saying that "if you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it's quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam".
However, the station did not include the Telegraph quote in its entirety, in which Dawkins continues: "It's terribly important to modify that because of course that doesn't mean all Muslims are evil, very far from it. Individual Muslims suffer more from Islam than anyone else."
Despite his opposition to all religions, Dawkins has asserted that all beliefs should be debated in an open and honest public forum. Thus, he regularly takes issue with the liberal media for treating Christianity as a hostile force while refusing to criticize Islam.
"Regressive left turns treacherous, blind eye on misogyny & homophobia because they absurdly think Islam must be 'respected' as a 'race,'" he wrote in 2015.
Last year, he once again slammed the media for claiming that the atrocities carried out by Islamic extremists have "nothing to do with religion" following the attack that killed 70 Pakistani Christians, mostly women and children, on Easter Sunday in Lahore.
At the time, he took to Twitter to offer a brief commentary on the tragedy: "Pak bomb kills 72," he wrote, and quoted the perpetrators of the attack as stating, "We have carried out this attack to target Christians who were celebrating Easter."
"Ah, nothing to do with religion, then," Dawkins quipped.