Rajeev Balasubramanyam: Dawkins should understand why he was no-platformed

On Thursday KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California, sent emails to hundreds of people with tickets to hear Richard Dawkins speak, explaining the event had been cancelled due to Dawkins’s “abusive… tweets and other comments on Islam”. Professor Dawkins responded by saying: “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 answer to is that Islam rarely gets a free pass in today’s world, and certainly not in today’s Britain. A survey revealed over 50 per cent of Britons would be concerned if a mosque were built in their area versus 15 per cent were a church to be opened. In the UK, a mosque is attacked on average once a week and figures from the London Mayor’s office reveal 1219 reported Islamophobic hate crimes in 2016 alone.

And yet Dawkins refuses to comment on Islamophobia, dismissing it as a “non-word”, a fiction designed to silence intellectuals like himself: “It’s a public relations coup that somebody has achieved by inventing this word. It’s a ridiculous word; it should never be used.”

Significantly, the way that Dawkins speaks about Islamophobia, as a baseless, non-referential concept, is not at all dissimilar to the way he characterises God, or faith, as something that exists, “only in the form of a meme with high survival value or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture” (from The Selfish Gene). It would appear that he finds it intolerable that others should treat their subjective experience as evidentially valid, be these religious experiences or the “speaking as a woman” type of pronouncement often lumped together as “identity politics”, something Professor Dawkins has condemned as “one of the great evils of our age”.

“Objective truth is oppressive,” he tweeted…

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