A CABINET minister and champion of women's rights has condemned a Muslim community group for suggesting women must be accompanied by men on long journeys.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening urged the Blackburn Muslim Association to "publicly withdraw" the "disgraceful" online comments that she said have no place in Britain.
In an online Islamic question and answer section, the association has published a link to a separate website under the heading 'travelling without Mahram', a man that a woman could not marry, such as a family member.
The linked page says it is "not permissible for a woman to travel a distance exceeding 48 miles without a husband or a Mahram".
The explanation is signed "Yusuf Shabbir, Blackburn, UK" and dated July 2006.
David TC Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, asked Ms Greening during development questions in the House of Commons: "Would you agree that your commendable efforts to improve sexual equality across the world 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 male chaperone?"
Ms Greening replied: "I had a look at their website last night and 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."
According to its website, the non-for-profit voluntary organisation says it provides "full support and comprehensive advice" in delivering activities which best support the most disadvantaged in the community — including women.
The full advice listed on the linked webpage, nawadir.org, reads: "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)."
Express.co.uk has contacted the Blackburn Muslim Association for comment.