June 8, 2020 12:05:52 am
Javed Akhtar’s transformation from being a writer of diverse cinematic stories and songs to an unflinching voice advocating secularism and freedom of speech has been noteworthy, but he never thought his ideas would travel as far as Center for Inquiry, which has honoured him with the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award.
Akhtar is the latest recipient of the coveted award presented by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), becoming the only Indian to earn the recognition. “The recipient will be 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,” cites the CFI.
Opening up about his win to indianexpress.com, Javed Akhtar said, “These are the people of the same ideology, but I wasn’t sure they would know of my existence or what I have written and my opinions. I had no idea it would reach so far! So, it is a huge recognition.”
The artiste has often been at the receiving end of abuse on social media for his stance against religious fundamentalism. The lyricist-writer said while he never looked for validation because he did not doubt his views, it is certainly special that a huge institution noticed his writings.
“Validation is for someone who has even an iota of doubt about what he or she thinks. But I have always been so sure about my thinking. But I am thrilled for this one because it is the first time I have been awarded for my views, my thought process, my rationality, my thoughts on religion. It is the ultimate recognition because it comes from a huge institution,” he said.
The Richard Dawkins Award comes to India at a time when it is reeling under multiple attempts to stifle dissenting voices. And Javed Akhtar believes his win would convey to the world that many in India will continue to speak their mind even if that means swimming against the tide.
Akhtar said, “This win will tell the world that there are people in India who express views which are sometimes not popular. Democracy has given us a gift, and we will always protect it.”
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Javed Akhtar’s wife and actor Shabana Azmi also shared with indianexpress.com her happiness over his win. Azmi said the win matters especially in the current times where “secularism is being attacked by religious fundamentalists.”
“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,” she said.
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