The Maharashtra government on Thursday decided to distance itself from the controversy over whether women should be allowed to enter the iconic Haji Ali Dargah, one of Mumbai’s most perceptible landmarks.

Muslim clerics were entitled to take a call on whether women would be allowed inside and permitted to pray in the sanctum sanctorum housing the tomb of 15th century Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, said Minister for Minority Affairs Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan.

Mr. Khan effectively ruled out the possibility of State intervention in the matter, which has sparked considerable furore among women activist groups in recent days.

“The issue is old and more a question of rituals,” said Mr. Khan, adding that the Dargah management committee could take a decision as per Sharia law.

The Minister said that women could go up to the grave and had been denied permission only to enter the restricted area.

Mr. Khan said he has directed the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which has been protesting against the diktats of the Dargah trustees, to approach the muftis and maulanas regarding the issue.

The BMMA had surveyed 20 dargahs here and discovered that seven of them had imposed restrictions on women visiting tombs inside.

It had written to the State government and the Minorities Commission on Tuesday appealing for their intervention.