A British Muslim group has told its members that women should not be able to go further than 48 miles without a male chaperone.
Blackburn Muslim Association stipulates that it is ‘not permissible’ for a women to go more than 48 miles, roughly three days walk, without her husband or a close male relative.
The statement is on a question and answer section on the group’s website which offers ‘solutions and answers’ to religious, social or financial matters according to Sharia teaching.
The group claims to have received local government funding and is listed as an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Telegraph reported.
The website also states that men must grow beards and advises women to cover their faces.
Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary and equalities minister said the advice had ‘no place’ in modern Britain branding it ‘disgraceful’.
Miss Greening’s intervention came following a question from Tory MP David Davies in the Commons who asked if efforts to improve sexual equality ‘would be made easier if organisations like the Blackburn Muslim Association were not putting out information to people that women should not be allowed to travel more than 48 miles without a chaperone?’
Miss Greening replied: ‘Frankly the view that they expressed on it is disgraceful and unacceptable.
‘It has no place in Britain and is contrary to our British values and I think the Blackburn Muslim Association should very clearly and publicly withdraw those comments.’
The Blackburn Muslim Association and the Muslim Council of Britain were unavailable for comment last night.
Dr Sheik Howjat Ramzy, an Oxford-based scholar and former head of the MCB’s education committee told the paper: ‘I believe this is offensive in this day and age that such a restriction should be placed on any woman against her wishes.
‘This practice was a very old tradition which had been followed by some when there was no security for women and when women were at risk of being abducted when travelling alone. – this was a tradition at the very beginning of Islam.
‘I would think no Muslim man has the right to impose these restrictions of movement. Women should be free to go where they please.
Lord Green, the founder of the think-tank Migration Watch UK, said: ‘There is no place in our society for restrictions of this kind on the freedom of women.
‘Muslim leaders would do well to encourage their followers to integrate with our society rather than cut themselves off.’
“I believe they should withdraw this statement and not degrade women. Islam gives great freedom to women – travel is part of that freedom.”
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “Women are entitled to their own autonomy and freedom of movement; any attempt to limit this must be condemned roundly by all sectors of society.
“We hope that this almost medieval attitude to women is an isolated case, but if the problem unfortunately gains ground, it may become necessary to consider what sanctions are appropriate against those restricting others’ freedoms.”
Lord Green, the founder of the think-tank Migration Watch UK, said: “There is no place in our society for restrictions of this kind on the freedom of women.
“Muslim leaders would do well to encourage their followers to integrate with our society rather than cut themselves off.”
Blackburn has the third highest percentage of Muslims, after Tower Hamlets and Newham in east London.
A spokesperson for Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “Blackburn with Darwen Council has no formal links with the Blackburn Muslim Association. They are not a partner of the Council or commissioned by us to deliver any services.”
A MCB spokesperson added: “Islamic legal opinion supports diversity, remaining true to the Prophet’s way, but also with a flexible approach. Changes are afoot, as can be seen in the empowerment of women, whether it be religious scholarship or political leadership. Rulings that belong to different historical periods and cultural settings get superseded. We encourage affiliates to actively consider this.”