Bollywood writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar has become the first Indian to win Richard Dawkins Award 2020 for critical thinking, advancing human progress and humanist values. Presented by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), the award felicitates “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.”
The award, which is named after English evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, has been presented since 2003. Mr. Dawkins was known for his landmark book, The Selfish Gene (1976), and his advocacy of atheism and scientific thinking.
On Sunday, his wife, and every green actor Shabana Azmi, shared the information on Twitter.
Previous recipients of the award include American TV host Bill Maher and writer-journalist Christopher Hitchens. Javed Akhtar is known for his views on politics, religion, and public life in India and the world. He has often spoken out against religious fundamentalism and restrictions on freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, many Bollywood stars including Anil Kapoor and Dia Mirza also congratulated the veteran writer through social media posts.
“Knowing that Richard Dawkins has been your hero since you read ‘The Selfish Gene’, the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award must be extra special for you, @Javedakhtarjadu Saab! It’s a truly incredible honor! Congratulations,” Kapoor wrote.
“Javed Akhtar Saab has won the prestigious Richard Dawkins Award 2020 for critical thinking, holding religious dogma up to scrutiny, advancing human progress and humanist values. He is the only Indian to have won this award! @Javedakhtarjadu Congratulations! You make us proud,” Mirza wished the lyricist.
Javed who has written the screenplay for iconic movies like Deewar, Zanjeer, and Sholay‘along with Salim Khan, has earlier been awarded Padma Shri (1999), Padma Bhushan (2007). The veteran lyricist and screenwriter also have five National Awards for Best Lyricist to his name and even the Sahitya Akademi Award.