Richard Dawkins' tweet on Muslims and Nobel Prize ignites storm

(Photo: Reuters / Andrew Winning)The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (R) and atheist scholar Richard Dawkins pose for a photograph outside Clarendon House at Oxford University, before their debate in the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford, central England, February 23, 2012. The name of the debate is ?The Nature of Human Beings and the Question of their Ultimate Origin?

Britain's Professor Richard Dawkins, viewed as a crusader for atheism, has triggered criticism for claiming Muslims have been awarded fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.

A row broke out in the twittersphere when Dawkins tweeted on August 9, "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."

Criticism and charges of racism against the high priest of atheism not only came from those who viewed his comments as anti-Islamic, but also came from the non-believers' camp.

Dawkins, a trained evolutionary biologist, has often attacked Christian and Muslim values in a defense of atheism and science his critics often demean as aggressive.

He defended his Muslim Nobel comments with the post, "You can attack someone for his opinion. But for simply stating an intriguing fact?" and "Muslims aren't a race. What they have in common is a religion. Rather than Trinity, would you prefer the comparison with Jews? Google it."

Nesrine Malik wrote in the British daily newspaper The Guardian: "Yes, it is technically true that fewer Muslims (10) than Trinity College Cambridge members (32) have won Nobel prizes.

"But insert pretty much any other group of people instead of 'Muslims,' and the statement would be true. You are comparing a specialised academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people," she added.


"Dawkins is really trying to say… that Muslims as a unit throughout history have done nothing since the Middle Ages," Malik wrote.

"The whole process of trying to parse the painfully obvious fallacy reminded me of the task of arguing against extremist Muslim clerics when they try to denigrate non-Muslims… The same opinion with an agenda dressed up as fact."

Owen Jones a writer and columnist for London's Independent newspaper wrote, "How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment."

Another twitter user, @Chriss_m, said: "Dawkins spent the best part of 10 years attacking Christianity and not raising an eyebrow. He now turns that same eye on Islam and uproar."

Michael Brown wrote on on August 12, "Before looking at Dawkins' rather mild criticism of Muslims, let's remember the depth of his vitriol against Christians and the Bible, most of which has only enhanced Dawkins' reputation."

On the site that carries conservative news and political commentary, Brown noted that in an April interview aired on the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera, Dawkins railed on the Catholic Church.

In that interview he said, "Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was [suffered by some children at the hands of deviant priests], the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place."


Brown also noted that in his bestselling book The God Delusion, Dawkins mocked the God of the Old Testament, claiming that, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Dawkins had in the same week as his Nobel tweet criticized the police and commissioner in England's Northamptonshire area for establishing an office aimed at interacting with faith-based communities when he asked why religious groups deserve a special liaison officer.

The 72-year-old emeritus professor also drew headlines earlier in the year when he took on the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in a debate at Cambridge, which the atheist lost.

He branded religion a "betrayal of the intellect" and "a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human," adding, "If I were a cultural Muslim, I would have something to say about that faith's appalling attitude to women and various other moral points."

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