UK priest questioned by Scotland Yard for alleged racial hate crime

November 14th, 2007 - 2:16 am ICT by admin  
Father John Hayes, 71, was quizzed for more than an hour after commenting on the case of a Muslim girl who went to court over her wish to wear a full veil in class.

The inquisition in Hornchurch, East London, prompted a furious row about policing priorities.

Yet, despite being accused of turning a blind eye to the inflammatory remarks of some Muslim preachers of hate, the Met still found time to quiz Hayes.

According to the Daily Mail, the priest said his ‘offending’ remarks had concerned Shabina Begum, who, represented by Cherie Blair QC, claimed unsuccessfully that it was her human right to be allowed to wear her jilbab, a loose gown, in class.

After hearing an interview with the girl, Hayes suggested in his Internet bulletin to his parishioners that it was never possible to convince anyone by argument in matters of religion.

“My point was that you have to demonstrate what it means to be Christian through your actions,” he said.

“Apparently someone in my congregation was unhappy with my comments and, after waiting a year, went to the police to say he had been ‘disturbed’ by it.”

A fortnight ago officers knocked on the door of his home next to St Mary’s Church, Hornchurch. They said a superintendent had sent them.

The priest said he was pretty surprised by their visit, but added that the officers were very polite and cordial.

“They seemed satisfied and when they eventually left the sergeant told me ‘that’s the end of the matter’. I felt the whole thing was a bit of a storm in a teacup.”

The decision to quiz Hayes has infuriated many Met officers.

A source at the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “What happened is a gross error of judgment and possibly even an abuse of power.

Hayes, who became the priest at St Mary’s 13 years ago, said one of his main aspirations was to bring people of different backgrounds together. (ANI)

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