Javed Akhtar is 2020 Richard Dawkins Award winner, confirms British evolutionary biologist

Mumbai, Jun 9 (PTI) Clearing the air around the 2020 Richard Dawkins Award, the British evolutionary biologist on Tuesday confirmed that lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar was the recipient this year for his 'courageous public stands on behalf of atheism, rationality and freethought'.

'Javed Akhtar @Javedakhtarjadu is the 2020 Richard Dawkins Award winner and I could not be more pleased. The Center for Inquiry, on whose board I sit, has designated him this year's recipient for his courageous public stands on behalf of atheism, rationality, and freethought,' the author, on whose name the award is designated, tweeted.

  The announcement came on the same day Akhtar's wife, veteran actor Shabana Azmi, dismissed a claim by an anonymous Twitter user that her writer-husband was only nominated but didn't win the award.

  The Twitter user uploaded a screenshot of an apparent Whatsapp chat claiming that Akhtar's name was merely 'proposed' for the award which he mistook as an announcement.    Quoting that tweet, Azmi said the 75-year-old writer had received an email from Dawkins himself, announcing the honour.  'This is patently untrue! We have an email from Richard Dawkins on 5th June offering the award and also from Robyn Blumner who heads the Centre for Inquiry, USA. I feel sad for these pathetic trolls who do not care that they will stand exposed in seconds for such a preposterous claim,' the actor said.  After Dawkins confirmed that Akhtar will be the recipient of award for the year 2020, Azmi tweeted, 'From Richard Dawkins. Now where will the Dirty Tricks Department of the Right Wing hide their faces?' Akhtar also tweeted, saying, 'Please check Mr Richard Dawkins latest tweet. Thank you.'   Every year, the award recognises a distinguished individual from the field of science, scholarship, education, or entertainment, who publicly proclaims the values of secularism and rationalism and upholding scientific truth.  British actor-comedian Ricky Gervais received the honour last year.

  Akhtar had told PTI on Sunday that he was 'deeply honoured' to be receive the award.

  '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,' Akhtar said.

  Azmi earlier told PTI that the award's relevance becomes more prominent, especially in the current times when secularism is under attack.    'I am thrilled. I know what a hero Richard Dawkins has been for Javed. The award gains all the more significance 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,' Azmi had said. PTI RB BK RB