The Blackburn Muslim Association in the UK advises its followers that it is "not permissible" for women to travel more than 48 miles without a male escort, such as a husband or a relative.
The association's website has been taken offline, but it still exists on Archive in a March 10 cache that states:
It is not permissible for a woman to travel a distance exceeding 48 miles without a Husband or a Mahram (those men who can never marry the woman).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is recorded to have said, “It is not permissible for a woman to travel a distance of three days (48 Miles) without a Mahram or a husband” (Muslim, The Book of Hajj, Ch. 74).
Thus, it will not be permissible for a woman to travel individually or with a group of women except with a Mahram or her husband, and this ruling applies to any form of travel including the journey for Hajj (pilgrimage).
However, the UK's international development secretary Justine Greening said, "Frankly the view that they expressed on it is disgraceful and unacceptable," notes The Telegraph.
"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," Greening added.
The association also said men are required to grow beards, while women are advised to cover their faces, reports The Telegraph.
The Muslim Council of Britain is listed on the website as one of the association's "umbrella [organizations]."
The Blackburn Muslim Association did not comment to the media, but a MCB spokesperson said:
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 Rulings that belong to different historical periods and cultural settings get superseded.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.
Dr. Sheik Howjat Ramzy, a former head of the MCB’s education committee, stated:
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 traveling 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.
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 non-religious National Secular Society, added:
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.