Controversial atheist Richard Dawkins has been dumped as the keynote speaker at an upcoming New York City sceptics conference after he praised a video equating feminism with radical Islamism.
"We have taken this action in response to Dr Dawkins' approving retweet of a highly offensive video," said a statement by the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS). "We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS."
Dawkins retweeted comments from a fan praising a video entitled Feminists Love Islamists. It features an unattractive cartoon feminist with a militant Islamist singing a song together comparing their despotic similarities. "We share essentially the same ideology," the two croon.
Dawkins' retweet included the video. He added: "Obviously doesn't apply to vast majority of feminists, among whom I consider myself. But the minority are pernicious."
The cartoon woman is based on a real person, who was harassed online after Dawkins' tweet, prompting him to apologize. "Having learned that the woman in the joke song is a real person who has been disgracefully threatened with violence, I'm deleting my tweets," he wrote.
Dawkins is apparently convinced the main concern of NECSS was that his tweet resulted in threats. In response to the decision to jettison him, Dawkins pointed out that he had deleted the offending retweet "purely" because it had apparently triggered threats against the woman mocked in the video.
"I wish there had been a friendly conversation before such unilateral action was taken," he told Patheos. "It is possible I could have allayed the committee members' concerns, or, if not, at least we could have talked through their objections to my tweet. If our community is about anything it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements."
Dawkins has a history of crazy tweets and of infuriating feminists. In his 2011 notorious "Dear Muslima" letter he argued women in the West have no right to complain about discrimination or harassment because women in Islamic countries have it so much worse. In 2014 the End Violence Against Women organization declared him the third most sexist man of the year.
The atheist movement has been accused of being dominated by men often insensitive to women's concerns. The NECSS decision to disinvite Dawkins as the keynote speaker is one of the few times an organization supportive of his atheism has taken action against him.