A conference organised by a student association at France’s renowned Sciences Po University has found itself on the verge of disruption as another student group vowed to prevent the attendance of a philosopher they called racist.
The participation of a well-known French-Jewish philosopher and a member of the Academie francaise, Alain Finkielkraut, in a round-table debate held in one of Europe’s most prestigious schools of social sciences has drawn the ire of a local anti-fascist student group, which called for a protest against the intellectual and almost got the whole event canceled altogether.
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The conference entitled ‘Modernity, legacy and progress’ and organized by a student group called ‘The Critique of the European Reason’ was initially scheduled to take place within the premises of the university in Paris on Tuesday. However, a day before the event, another student group – an anti-fascist association ‘Sciences Po in Struggle – Institute of Clement Meric’ said in a Facebook post it would hold a protest against the very idea of Finkielkraut ever setting foot within the university walls.
Finkielkraut wrote many books on a wide range of topics, including anti-Semitism, French colonialism and the issues of identity and integration. While he believes that Western tradition was eroded by multiculturalism, he has never explicitly supported any far-right groups.
Yet, the anti-fascists minced no words as they accused the philosopher of committing all the inexcusable crimes against political correctness at once. Sciences Po offered a platform to “a deeply reactionary man whose openly racist and sexist statements are as dangerous as they are intolerable,” the group named after a far-left militant killed by skinheads in a brawl back in 2013 said in a statement it posted on Facebook.
“There can be no dialog with … individuals like Alain Finkielkraut,” the group said as it accused the philosopher of “endangering their lives” and vowed to stage a rally in front of the entrance to the university to prevent him from speaking at the event.
The organizers of the conference certainly took the matter seriously as they canceled the event on Tuesday afternoon, explaining that “the security of one of our stakeholders is our priority and it is better not to take the risk in the face of threats.” They also denounced the would-be protesters as “censors … draped in the tinsel of tolerance and diversity,” who defend “sectarian” positions instead of “pluralism.”
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In fact, the conference was then moved to the IPAG business school located not far from the Sciences Po campus. However, the anti-fascists were quick to notice this fact and some 20 protesters gathered near the business school ahead of the event. Such developments prompted the organizers to move the event once again to its original location in a last minute change.
Eventually, the conference was held at the Sciences Po campus under police guard. A video published by organizers on social media shows Finkielkraut arriving to the conference at a time when several police officers are seen maintaining order at a street near the campus. A group of youths, some of them masked, could also be seen on the street, although they did not take any action.
Following the conference, the anti-fascists slammed the university by saying it was “biased” and supported “reactionary speakers.” They even called the center of the French political sciences “an institution educating far-right elites” that later support “repressive and violent policies of the state apparatus.”
We strongly condemn the Sciences Po’s collusion with the extreme right and its choice to call the police against its own students.
The organizers, in turn, called the protesters “little censors” and denounced their action as “intellectual terrorism.” They also said that the anti-fascists launched a “manhunt” to prevent a man from expressing himself.
We will never yield in the face of those, who use the argument of domination and diversity to in fact kill all pluralism and critical thinking.
Finkielkraut himself also did not stay out of this debate as he criticized the anti-fascist group protesting against him in what he called “a misguided fight.”
It is they, who are the fascists. They are exactly those, whom they denounce.
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