Controversial pick-up artist Daryush 'Roosh' Valizadeh says he will fight attempts by a Labour MEP to have him and his supporters banned from entering Europe. The leader of "neo-masculinist" group Return of Kings said if EU officials imposed a travel ban he would "disguise [himself] as a refugee", adding that EU borders are "a joke".
It comes after Valizadeh faced a backlash over his plans for a series of Return of Kings meet-ups across the world, including eight in the UK. Critics demanded they be cancelled, accusing the group of being sexist and promoting violence against women. A common complaint was an article written by Valizadeh in which he appeared to advocate making rape legal on private property. The 36-year-old, who lives in Washington, US, has since insisted the piece was "satire".
Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, who accused Valizadeh of spreading "deplorable" messages about women, has now written to the European Commission asking visa restrictions be applied to him and Return of Kings supporters should they wish to travel to the continent. She told IBTimes UK: "The events he planned would have put public order and women safety at risk. He claims the 'pro-rape' article was satirical but it doesn't sound like satire when you read it.
"I think we should take these kinds of comments seriously. If we don't say something it almost condones it and violence against women is a real problem in Europe."
Her written question to the commission, which must respond within six weeks, added: "It is crucial that a strong message be sent to citizens that the EU does not tolerate the views and behaviour of rape apologists and misogynists like Roosh V."
Valizadeh took to Twitter to attack the MEP, saying: "We will refute your lies every step of the way." He added: "If you ban me, I'll disguise myself as a refugee to get free housing, money, and a welcome parade. Your border is a joke."
A blog post on his website accused Honeyball, who sits on the EU's women's rights and gender equality committee, of espousing "moronic feminist" views. It added: "Honeyball intends to outright lie and deceive members of the EU Parliament by portraying ROK as a 'pro-rape' group presenting an imminent sexual assault danger to all European women."
Eight cities across the UK were due to host Return of Kings events on 6 February. The group, which shares tips on how to seduce women and posts provocative articles on a range of topics, has more than 12,000 likes on Facebook. Members were due to meet face-to-face in 43 countries for the first time.
But the events were cancelled by Valizadeh due to "safety fears", after feminism campaigners planned protests at the meet-up locations and politicians added to calls for Return of Kings to be banned. In the UK, a debate on the group in the House of Commons saw MPs on both sides attack his group, with a government minister describing Valizadeh as "repulsive".
Mary Honeyball MEP's written question to the European Commission:
"The recent controversy surrounding the planned meetings of so-called neo-masculinist and 'pro-rape' leader Roosh V and his supporters has highlighted once again the need for stronger action to combat all forms of violence against women.
"These events put both public order and women's safety at risk and are a symptom of wider problems in society. Recent studies have shown violence against women is prevalent in the EU, as are attitudes that blame women for being victims of sexual violence rather than the men who perpetrate it.
"It is crucial that a strong message be sent to citizens that the EU does not tolerate the views and behaviour of rape apologists and misogynists like Roosh V.
"What steps are being taken to deal with similar cases in future, including possible visa restrictions on people who seek to enter the EU with the intention of inciting violence against women?"