Professor Richard Dawkins embroiled in Twitter row over Muslim comments
Richard Dawkins has been forced to defend controversial comments he made online after saying the last time Muslims contributed something worthwhile was during the Middle Ages.
10:00PM BST 08 Aug 2013
Prof Dawkins, the bestselling author of The God Delusion, wrote on Twitter that all the world’s Muslims had won fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.
He went on to argue that although Muslims were responsible for many achievements during the Dark Ages, including alchemy and algebra, their contribution since then was questionable.
<noframe>Twitter: Richard Dawkins – All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.</noframe>
His comments sparked outrage from many high-profile writers and journalists including author Caitlin Moran and Channel 4 News Economics Editor Faisal Islam.
Moran tweeted: “it’s time someone turned Richard Dawkins off and then on again. Something’s gone weird.”
Writing on Twitter on Thursday, Prof Dawkins said: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
While in response to another Twitter user who wrote that Muslims were responsible for alchemy and algebra, he replied: “Indeed, where would we be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since then?”
He later tried to justify his comments by saying he talked about the number of Muslim prize winners because we often hear “boasts about their total numbers”.
He wrote: “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”
He added: “A statement of simple fact is not bigotry”.
<noframe>Twitter: Richard Dawkins – Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.</noframe>
Prof Dawkins has gained worldwide attention for his outspoken criticism of organised religion, and argued that the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States showed that a harder line must be taken with believers.
In 2010, he sparked controversy after labelling the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock” in an article for The Washington Post. A year later, his comments provoked uproar once again when he called the Catholic church “evil”.
Previous Twitter comments have also caused a stir, including one in which he wrote: “”Don’t ask God to cure cancer & world poverty. He’s too busy finding you a parking space & fixing the weather for your barbecue.”
Earlier this year, speaking about the damage caused to a library in Timbuktu, in Mali, during the uprising he described those who burnt it down as “Islamic Barbarians”.
His comments were interpreted as being derogatory to Islam and insulting to followers of the religion by some on Twitter.
Trinity College, Cambridge, has 32 Nobel laureates, as against 10 Muslims listed in Wikipedia.
But Channel 4 News journalist Islam tried to debunk some of Prof Dawkins’ Nobel Prize claims, saying that he shouldn’t have included Nobel Prizes awarded for economics.
He said over the last two decades, “it’s 8-4 against trinity.”
“I say this as a Muslim alumnus of Trinity College, Cambridge”.
He added that if Prof Dawkins “had any clue what he was talking about, he’d know to strip out the Economics Nobels, which aren’t quite real”.
Prof Dawkins made his name as an evolutionary biologist with his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene.