A right-wing Polish priest has complained he was “banned from defending Christian children”, after being turned away from the UK at the weekend.
The 28-year old priest, Jacek Miedlar, was stopped by border officials after landing at Stansted airport, intending to speak at a meeting of the far-right “Britain First” organisation.
Miedlar later used his Twitter account to complain that he was a victim, attempting to protect children from so-called “Muslim grooming gangs.”
The outspoken priest, from western Poland, has made a name for himself with anti-Muslim remarks and speeches about “Jewish imperialists and freemasonry.”
— Jacek Międlar (@jacekmiedlar) February 27, 2017
Miedlar, in turn, accuses his critics of being left-wing agitators or unpatriotic.
He was stopped from the UK after landing in Essex on the grounds of Britain’s hate-speech laws but was intending to speak at the event in Telford, Shropshire.
The location was chosen by Britain First, a racist far-right grouping which calls itself a “street defence organisation”, because of its strong Polish community, and because of allegations of child-sexual grooming in the area.
This topic became infamous in far-right circles after the uncovering of a gang in Rotherham, south Yorkshire who had groomed children for abuse between 1997 and 2013.
Five men, all British-Pakistani, were later jailed for sexual offences, creating a cause celebre among anti-immigrant groups.
The event was advertised by Britain First under the slogan “Come and stand with us against Muslim grooming gangs!”
Miedlar has his own hard-right following in Poland, after speaking at far-right rallies, and being suspended by his local Catholic church.
The UK Home Office confirmed that an individual was detained on Saturday morning by Border Force officials working with local police.
The leader of Britain First, Paul Golding, said it was “outrageous that [Miedlar] is deported for wanting to speak at a legal political protest, but Iranian hate preachers are okay.”
He did not specify what “Iranian hate preachers” he was referring to.
According to the anti-racist campaign Hope Not Hate, only 87 people eventually turned up in Telford for the event.
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) February 25, 2017
At 85% of its population, Poland is one of the EU’s most staunchly Catholic countries, although Miedlar is far from representative of anything but an extreme fringe.
However, secularists and womens’ rights activists worry about the influence of the controversial Radio Maryja, which even the Vatican has criticised for “political broadcasting.”
After the liberal Civic Platform government of now EU Council President Donald Tusk, Poland has reverted to the Law and Justice party, which although was born out of the secular Solidarity movement, is now socially-conservative and in informal alliance with the highly-Catholic League of Polish Families party.
The question of the far-right co-opting the Catholic church to target Muslims, immigrants and refugees is a pressing one for Jan Figel, the EU’s first ever Special Envoy for the Promotion of Religion or Belief Outside the EU.
His term comes up for renewal in May 2017.