If you haven’t spent the last couple of days glued to twitter, you might not be aware of the furore currently overheating social media around Richard Dawkins and accusations that his pronouncements on Islam are racist. So for our non-tweeting friends, and those who have real jobs (i.e. not journalists) here is a round-up of the controversy so far. Read it over the weekend and get yourself fully briefed.

On Wednesday 6 August, a long post by Alex Gabriel, titled “Yes, Richard Dawkins, your statements on Islam are racist”, was published on The Heresy Club website. In the post Gabriel makes a plea to Dawkins and like-minded people to reform the discussion and critique of Islam. He supports his argument by presenting several of Dawkins’ tweets concerning Islam that to him have racist subtexts. Gabriel says: “Asserting that because Islam is a religion and not a race, one can never discuss it (or treat its followers) in racist ways makes about as much sense as saying that because ballet is an art form not a sexual identity, it’s impossible to say anything homophobic about male ballet dancers.” Gabriel’s article got 62 comments and was widely circulated, retweeted 132 times on Twitter and widely debated.

We do not know for sure if Richard Dawkins read the article but as an active Tweeter himself he cannot have been unaware of its existence.

Yesterday, on August 8 Dawkins tweeted this tweet, which reads: “All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” This was retweeted widely by his followers, but also greeted with derision, and some shock by many others on Twitter, who saw in it more fuel for the case that Dawkins was being prejudiced.

For example Indepdent columnist and coming man of the left Owen Jones commented "How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment."

That same day Nesrine Malik wrote on the Guardian website that Dawkins’ tweet had interrupted her Eid celebrations. In her article called “Richard Dawkins' tweets on Islam are as rational as the rants of an extremist Muslim cleric” she accuses the God Delusion author of “deliberately obtuse baiting”. She says that while the number of Muslim Nobel Prize winners is indeed lower than that of Trinity College’s, Dawkins is comparing a “specialised academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people.” She also points out that the Nobel Prize might not be the best criterion to judge Muslim achievements. Malik ends with saying that “The process of trying to parse the painfully obvious fallacy reminded me of the task of arguing against extremist Muslim clerics when they try to denigrate non-Muslims.” That article currently has 2185 comments.

Over at the Telegraph, atheist science blogger Tom Chivers wrote about his disappointment with Dawkins. In his post “Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I'm begging, as a fan,” he laments: “I really don't want to write this piece. I have long worshipped Richard Dawkins and sort of wish I'd never started following him on Twitter because it's ruining all my happy memories of The Blind Watchmaker.” While he agrees with Dawkins that Islam is not a race, Chivers accused him of treating all Muslims as “featureless representatives of their religion.” He also says that even though Dawkins’ Nobel Prize statistics may be a fact, facts can have different meanings. “For instance,” he writes, “would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together?”. His article currently has 1390 comments.

Owen Jones then got in on the act for the Independent, in a piece called “Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief - he cannot be left to represent atheists”. Jones criticises Dawkins’ habit of discussing Muslims “in the most dismissive, generalising and pejorative fashion.” He, as many others, argues that the “Nobel Prizes have disproportionately gone to the advanced, developed countries with lots of money for education and scientific research, which tend to be white and Christian.” Owen questions Dawkins’ claim that religion, as opposed to race, is optional or can be simply chosen or not. He also raises the question of Islamophobia in the UK and worldwide: “How can comments by the likes of Dawkins really be separated from a broader context where Muslims are feared, suspected and even hated?” Owen finishes by underlining that it is important for atheists to distance themselves from those who undermine their position. 214 readers saw fit to add their comments to this.

The New Statesman upped the ante with two posts on the controversy. Another secular science geek Martin Robbins wrote in his article, called “Atheism is maturing, and it will leave Richard Dawkins behind”, that Dawkins’ Nobel Prize tweet “contains no meaningful criticism of religion, nor can it reasonably imply any.” He also criticises Dawkins’ generalisation of Muslims, and usage of “racially-charged discourse”. Robbins says: “In short, he is beginning to sound disturbingly like a member of the far right – many of his tweets wouldn’t look out of place on Stormfront.” He finishes his article by pointing out that the atheist/secularist community wishes for “positive expression of humanism and secularism.” Robbins’ article currently has 107 comments.

Also in New Statesman, Nelson Jones' blog post asked “Why do so many Nobel laureates look like Richard Dawkins?”. As you can probably guess from the title, Jones’ discusses the “overwhelming predominance of Western countries, in particular the United States, and of a handful of institutions.” He says there is no international conspiracy behind this, nor is it the fault of Islam.

Jones says that religion actually has little to do with the worldwide distribution of the Prizes: “Political, geological and geographic factors all played their part, as to a lesser extent did philosophy and theology. But the long list of Western Nobel laureates has a more proximate cause: the weight of economic and intellectual capital that has accumulated in a small number of leading institutions, among which Cambridge University is among the most significant.” Finally, Jones ponders whether Dawkins has considered why the US boasts almost double the amount of Nobel Prizes than the rest of the world, while millions of its inhabitants are creationists. His article currently has 30 comments.

Late today, Richard Dawkins took to his own blog to answer what he calls this “storm in a teacup”. “If you [Muslims] are so numerous, and if your science is so great, shouldn’t you be able to point to some pretty spectacular achievements emanating from among those vast numbers? If you can’t today but once could, what has gone wrong for the past 500 years? Whatever it is, is there something to be done about it?,” he explains his controversial tweet in more than 140 characters. In his post, Dawkins dismisses accusations of racism and bigotry, and discusses, among other things, the economic advantages of Cambridge, the Christian origins of the Trinity College, Islamic science and the number of Nobel Prizes won by atheists. He says about his twitter presence: “Twitter’s 140 character limit always presents a tough challenge, but I tried to rise to it.”

So, please do your reading over the weekend, and be ready to discuss the texts on Monday when, we have no doubt, there will be much more to add.

And just as I am finishing this post, a tweet popped up from Tony Blair Faith Foundation, apparently from the orange one himself. He says “@RichardDawkins ill-judged remarks on Muslims are prejudice dressed up as facts. Harms important debate about religion’s role in the world.”

Who will be next into the ring?