Arts Faculty invites neo-Nazis to lecture students

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News that the Arts Faculty of Prague's prestigious Charles University has decided to invite far-right and far-left extremists to present lectures on their philosophy of life has created a great deal of controversy. Commentators are at odds over whether treating neo-Nazis as an academically acceptable minority is prudent in a country which already has plenty of problems with racism and xenophobia. Daniela Lazarova put the question earlier to political analyst Vaclav Pinkava:

"No I don't consider it prudent. It is like letting a live virus be studied by the medical faculty in the sense that it is live. I think it would be a different matter to have somebody speaking who used to be a Nazi and who saw through it and who would explain why he was a Nazi once and is no longer. Like if you are dealing with an inoculation process where the virus is damaged or heat treated so its no longer lethal but it has all the characteristics that allow you to recognize it."

The head of department who actually approved this project says in his defense that there is very little information about extremist groupings and movements. That all they have to go on is something from the Interior Ministry and since there is not much of that students are actually learning by observing how these people act, think, by listening to their rhetoric and arguments...He says he's actually letting them get acquainted with various forms of extremism in order to be able to recognize the risks and the danger in the future...

"Well, as far as that goes that's fine and I would expect university students at that faculty, at that level to be able to see through that kind of rhetoric and not fall for it. That was not my point. I think that inviting extremists to lecture at a university gives them a platform which can then be abused because the speaker can go away from it saying "I spoke at Charles University" and what prestige is lost internationally by the university is gained by the speaker who can then go to other meetings, other platforms, put it on his resume and gain credibility by taking it away from the university.

To allow somebody with extremist opinions to come and express them in the ivory tower of the university is to allow more than an appropriate amount of tolerance towards that extremism. These kind of views could be recorded somewhere else and played back to the students etc. there are lots of ways of getting the information to them without giving that man or woman access to the hallowed halls of Charles University to speak there and to then say if I was good enough for Charles University why am I not good enough on the square in Hradec Kralove?... "