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Lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar becomes first Indian to win the Richard Dawkins award

The annual award is given by the Center for Inquiry for 'publicly proclaiming the values of secularism and rationalism and upholding scientific truth wherever it may lead'.

Our Correspondent

Lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar has become the first Indian to be presented with the prestigious Richard Dawkins award.

Named after the evolutionary biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins, the award was instituted by the Atheist Alliance of America in 2003. The presentation of the award was taken over by the Center for Inquiry in 2019.

Previous winners of the award include the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Steven Pinker, Stephen Fry and comedian Ricky Gervais.

Dawkins has long been a hero for Javed Akhtar, and was noted for his stance on logical, rational examination of facts. Like Dawkins, the poet has often stood up for humanist and democratic values and against superstition, dogmatic laws and authoritarian acts.

Speaking to the Press Trust of India news agency, Javed Akhtar said, "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 Center for Inquiry USA, in which The Richard Dawkins Foundation is housed."

Anil Kapoor mentioned Akhtar's admiration for Dawkins when he wished the poet-writer on his latest achievement. The actor was among many in the film industry who took to social media to congratulate Javed Akhtar.

Daughter and filmmaker Zoya Akhtar wrote, "So my dad just won the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award 2020 for Critical Thinking and advancing Humanist Values. He is the only Indian to have done so. Previous recipients include Bill Maher, Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and Christopher Hitchens."