Javed Akhtar wins prestigious Richard Dawkins Award for being a voice for secularism

Image of Richard Dawkins Award is given to Distinguished individual from the worlds of science, scholarship, education, or entertainment, who publicly proclaims the values of secularism and rationalism. Source: Wikipedia

By Dr. Shirin Abbas, Edited by Adam Rizvi, N.J. USA. TIO: Javed Akhtar, noted poet-lyricist and known as a free and independent secular voice has become the first and only Indian to receive the coveted Richard Dawkins Award presented by the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Naturally, he is elated.  Known as a writer of diverse cinematic stories and songs and a relentless crusader advocating secularism and freedom of speech, the writer reacted to receiving the prestigious award on Monday.

“These are the people of the same ideology, but I wasn’t sure they would know of my existence or what I have written and my opinions. I had no idea it would reach so far! So, it is a huge recognition.”

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“These are the people of the same ideology, but I wasn’t sure they would know of my existence or what I have written and my opinions. I had no idea it would reach so far! So, it is a huge recognition.”Javed Akhtar noted poet-lyricist and known as a free and independent secular voice has become the first and only Indian to receive the coveted Richard Dawkins Award presented by the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Naturally, he is elated.  Known as a writer of diverse cinematic stories and songs and a relentless crusader advocating secularism and freedom of speech, the writer reacted to receiving the prestigious award on Monday.

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The artiste has often been at the receiving end of abuse on social media for his stance against religious fundamentalism. The lyricist-writer said while he never looked for validation because he did not doubt his views, it is certainly special that a huge institution noticed his writings.

“Validation is for someone who has even an iota of doubt about what he or she thinks. But I have always been so sure about my thinking. But I am thrilled for this one because it is the first time I have been awarded for my views, my thought process, my rationality, my thoughts on religion. It is the ultimate recognition because it comes from a huge institution,” he said.

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The Richard Dawkins Award comes to India at a time when it is reeling under multiple attempts to stifle dissenting voices. And Javed Akhtar believes his w

Javed Akhtar with his family

in would convey to the world that many in India will continue to speak their mind even if that means swimming against the tide. “The recipient will be a distinguished individual from the worlds of science, scholarship, education, or entertainment, who publicly proclaims the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truth wherever it may lead,” cites the CFI.

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Akhtar added, “I am deeply honored. I have been a great admirer of Richard Dawkins since I read his first book The Selfish Gene. His books have strengthened my own views on the need to expose religious dogma as an enemy of critical thinking and rationality, “ Akhtar said.  “This win will tell the world that there are people in India who express views which are sometimes not popular. Democracy has given us a gift, and we will always protect it.”

His proud wife and actor Shabana Azmi also shared her happiness on social media over his win. She said the win matters especially in the current times where “secularism is being attacked by religious fundamentalists.”

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“I am thrilled! I know what a hero Richard Dawkins has been for Javed. The award gains all the more significant 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,” she said.

The award has come as a shot in the arm for all supporters of secularism both in India and across the border in Pakistan, where several fans of Akhtar have welcomed the conferment of the award on the noted poet lyricist. One such fan, Waseem Altaf, from Toba Tek Singh, Pakistan, wrote on Facebook: “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!”

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Shirin Abbas

Dr. Shirin Abbas is the Bureau Chief "TheIndiaObserver.Com". She is a world-renowned journalist, winner of several national and international awards for her contribution to Media Research.The first recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for Print Journalism in 1999 from her state of Uttar Pradesh. Under the same, she studied at the School of Media, Communication, and Design at the University Of Westminster, London and interned with The Irish Times, Dublin. She has been a journalist for over three decades, working at several national English dailies in North India. She completed her PhD. in Mass Communication in 2016.

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