Veteran writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar on Sunday said he is honoured to be named this year’s recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award as he has been a huge fan of the world-renowned English evolutionary biologist in whose name the recognition is bestowed.
Akhtar became the first Indian to be given the honour for critical thinking, holding religious dogma up to scrutiny, advancing human progress and humanist values.
“I am deeply honoured. I have been a great admirer of Richard Dawkins ever since I read his first book ‘The Selfish Gene’.”
“I received an email from him informing me that I had been unanimously selected for the award by the board of Centre for Inquiry USA, in which The Richard Dawkins Foundation is housed,” Akhtar, 75, told PTI.
Every year, the award recognises a distinguished individual from the field of science, scholarship, education, or entertainment, who publicly proclaims the values of secularism and rationalism and upholding scientific truth.
The veteran screenwriter said Dawkins is a “fierce advocate” of empirical science over superstition and he has read all his books.
“His books have strengthened my own views on the need to expose religious dogma as an enemy of critical thinking and rationality,” Akhtar added.
According to Akhtar’s wife, veteran actor Shabana Azmi, the award’s relevance becomes more prominent, especially in the current times when secularism is under attack. “I am thrilled. I know what a hero Richard Dawkins has been for Javed. The award gains all the more significance because in today’s time when secularism is being attacked by religious fundamentalists of all hues, this award comes as a validation of Javed’s long service to rational thinking,” Azmi told PTI.
British actor-comedian Ricky Gervais received the honour last year.
Bollywood celebrities including Akhtar’s daughter, filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, actors Anil Kapoor, Dia Mirza took to social media to congratulate the writer on the recognition.
‘I received an email from him informing me that I had been unanimously selected for the award by the board of Centre for Inquiry USA, in which The Richard Dawkins Foundation is housed,’ Akhtar, 75, told media
Zoya Akhtar said she is “super excited” for her father on receiving the honour.
“So my dad just won the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award 2020 for critical thinking and humanist values. He is the only Indian to have done so. Previous recipients include Bill Maher, Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and Christopher Hitchens…,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Knowing that Richard Dawkins has been your hero since you read ‘The Selfish Gene’, the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award must be extra special for you @Javedakhtarjadu Saab! It’s a truly incredible honour! Congratulations!” Kapoor tweeted.
Dia said Akhtar’s win is a proud moment for the country.
“Javed Akhtar Saab has won the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award 2020 for critical thinking, holding religious dogma up to scrutiny, advancing human progress and humanist values. He is the only Indian to have won this award! @Javedakhtarjadu Congratulations! You make us proud,” Dia wrote.