Blind passengers are being ordered off buses or refused taxi rides because Muslim drivers or passengers object to their ‘unclean’ guide dogs.
One pensioner, a cancer sufferer, told how had twice been confronted by drivers and asked to get off the bus because of his guide dog, and had also faced hostility at a hospital and in a supermarket over the animal.
The problem to carry guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was raised in the House of Lords last week, prompting transport minister Norman Baker to warn that a religious objection was not a reason to eject a passenger with a well-behaved guide dog.
While drivers can use their discretion to refuse to carry non-disabled passengers with dogs, they are compelled to accept guide dogs under disability discrimination law.
Yesterday both the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the National Federation of the Blind confirmed the problem was common, and, according to the latter organisation was ‘getting worse’.
The tension stems from a strand of Islamic teaching which warns against contact with dogs because the animal’s saliva was considered to be impure, the Muslim Council of Britain said.
It urged Muslims to show tolerance and common sense over the issue.
‘We need to be flexible on this,’ a spokesman said. ‘Muslim drivers should have no hesitation in allowing guide dogs into their bus or car.
‘If a dog does lick you, it’s not the end of the world. Just go home and wash yourself.’
George Herridge, 73, a retired hospital maintenance manager, told the Daily Mail he was ‘stunned’ to be twice asked by bus drivers to leave their vehicles because of his guide dog Andy, a black Labrador.
Mr Herridge, who lives with wife Janet, 69, in Tilehurst, Reading, said that on the first occasion two years ago, he got off at the request of a Muslim driver because some Muslim children on board were ‘screaming’ because of the dog.
He found himself in a similar scenario in May last year, when a Muslim woman and her children became ‘hysterical’. Mr Herridge this time refused the driver’s request to alight.
He complained to the bus company which launched an investigation. It later informed him the matter had been dealt with ‘internally’.
Jill Allen-King, spokesman for the NFB, said she had been repeatedly left on the kerb by Muslim taxi drivers who refused to take her dog.
One cab driver told her he would have to ‘go home now and wash myself’ when she tried to enter his car with her dog.
Mr Baker yesterday warned bus and cab companies that, while there were within their rights to ask a passenger to leave if the dog was causing a nuisance, it was ‘much more questionable to be asked to remove a dog for religious reasons’.
He added: ‘One person’s freedom is someone else’s restriction.’
In 2006, Muslim minicab driver Abdul Rasheed Majekodumni was fined £200 and ordered to pay £1,200 costs by magistrates in Marylebone, central London, after being prosecuted for failing to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act when he refused to take a blind passenger because her guide dog was ‘unclean’.