Famed atheist and author Richard Dawkins has accused a California radio station of giving Islam a "free pass" after it canceled his appearance following protests from students.
Dawkins was lined up to promote his new book "Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist," at an event hosted by the KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California in August. However, the radio station canceled his segment after protesters highlighted his past declaration that Islam was the "most evil" of world religions.
The radio station sent an email to ticket holders on Thursday praising Dawkins' book but apologizing for not having "broader knowledge" about his views, adding that the famed atheist had hurt people with "his tweets and other comments on Islam."
In an open letter Dawkins shared on his website, the author asked why he was not allowed to criticize Islam, noting that he regularly criticizes Christianity.
"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?" Dawkins asked. "Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?" he added.
Dawkins explained that his past comments were not aimed at attacking Islam as a faith but was directed instead against Islamism, a political interpretation of the religion to justify extremism.
"If you had consulted me, or if you had done even rudimentary fact-checking, you would have concluded that I have never used abusive speech against Islam," Dawkins wrote.
"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," the author continued.
The author told The New York Times on Saturday that he only learned about the cancellation after the email from the station was forwarded to him. He added that the station did not offer any further explanation regarding the cancellation of the event.
Berkeley has drawn controversy in recent months due to the cancellation of speeches over security concerns. In February, the University of California, Berkeley, canceled an appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos following violent protests. The university also canceled a speech by conservative author Ann Coulter in April, citing security concerns. The radio station, however, is not officially connected with the university.
Dawkins stated that he once lived in Berkeley during the late 1960s and was once a frequent listener and supporter of KPFA. He said he objected to the idea that speakers who are deemed to be offensive should be turned away from universities.