Indian writer, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar will be presented next month with the 2020 Richard Dawkins Award. Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, will present Akhtar with the award at an Oct. 24 virtual ceremony.
“Their work has inspired and enlightened millions of people around the world and across generations. Their passionate advocacy for reason and their unapologetic questioning of religion and superstition have broken taboos and changed the cultural landscape,” the Center for Inquiry said in a news release.
In a virtual ceremony hosted by Dawkins from the UK and streamed live over Zoom, Akhtar will formally accept the Richard Dawkins Award for 2020, followed by an extended, unscripted conversation between the two, the release noted. This 90-minute live event will take place Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. ET.
“We are excited to honor such a distinguished luminary for his work challenging religion and promoting critical thinking, but this event means something even more,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry.
“It’s an opportunity to bring the wisdom and insight of both of these remarkable individuals to new audiences,” Blummer added. “Viewers in India will get to hear directly from Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s most famous and respected scientists and a leading voice for atheism, and western viewers will be introduced to the eloquence and courage of Javed Akhtar.”
Akhtar has written some of India’s most popular and acclaimed films, earning multiple awards for screenplays and lyrics. As a poet and social commentator, Akhtar has advocated for education and equal rights for all, and called for the rejection of religious fundamentalism and superstition, his bio notes.
He has been honored with India’s prestigious Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri for “distinguished service of a high order,” and nominated to the Rajya Sabha of India’s Parliament.
The Richard Dawkins Award is presented annually by the Center for Inquiry, home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and given to a distinguished individual from the worlds of science, scholarship, education or entertainment who publicly proclaims the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truth wherever it may lead.