- Picture from Birmingham rally shows men and women sitting apart in hall
- Labour sources say it wasn't enforced but allowed Muslim women to attend
- Critics call decision 'sickening' and say party will 'do anything for votes'
- MP who fought against segregation in schools was centre stage at event
- Khalid Mahmood said: 'Nobody was told to sit anywhere. It just happened'
Labour faces a sexism row today after it defended the decision to segregate Muslim men and women at a party rally at an Islamic centre.
Senior party figures, including Liam Byrne, Tom Watson and Harriet Harman's husband Jack Dromey, spoke at the event in Birmingham on Saturday even though men sat on one side of the room and women on the other.
Labour has denied that people were forced to sit separately based on gender - even though photographs from the event show that the groups were clearly segregated.
Critics called the decision 'sickening' and claimed that the party was 'selling values for votes' in order to get Ed Miliband into Downing Street.
Row: Men and women sat apart at a Labour-run event in Birmingham on Saturday, which critics said had no 'place in modern Britain'
Among those on the panel were Tom Watson, fer left, Liam Byrne, centre left, and Jack Dromey, centre right, – the husband of Labour's deputy leader and ardent feminist Harriet Harman
Among the Labour grandees at the event was Khalid Mahmood, who is standing to be MP for Perry Bar on Thursday.
Mr Mahmood previously spoke out against the alleged Trojan Horse plot in 12 of Birmingham's schools, including allegations of gender segregation, but was centre stage at Saturday's event - but said any criticism based on the rally photo was 'ridiculous'.
LABOUR GRANDEES ATTEND EVENT INCLUDING MP WHO PREVIOUSLY FOUGHT AGAINST SEGREGATION
He told MailOnline that although the picture of the event showed men and women sat apart, afterwards the groups all mixed afterwards and took 'selfies' together.
He said: 'I was happy to support the event. It wasn't as segregated as people are making out. The photo has been taken out of context.
'Nobody was told to sit anywhere. It just happened that men and women sat separately – but what the photo doesn’t show is there were women and men together at the back.
'What people need to understand is that this part of a process of engaging with Muslim women and this was the start of that. It is about giving women in some communities the confidence to engage.
'People can say what they like. In 2010 I went to rallies where there were no women at all'.
MailOnline approached Liam Byrne for comment, and he said he had nothing to add to Labour’s official statement.
Jack Dromey and Tom Watson were unavailable today.
But one senior party figure has said the seating arrangements ensured that women from the city's Muslim communities were able to take part - ensuring all were 'treated equally and respectfully'.
Tory candidate Julian Smith said: 'Labour are completely desperate. They are selling their values in exchange for a few votes.'
Former MP Louise Mensch tweeted: 'Freedom of religion allows churches and others to segregate, a secular political event is not religious.'
Andrew Bridgen, the Tory candidate in North West Leicestershire, said: 'On the one hand, Labour is preaching about feminism and equality for women, and on the other hand they are happy with a segregated audience.
'It shows how desperate they have become at the fag end of this campaign that they will do anything for a few votes. This shows Labour talking out of both sides of its mouth – as usual.
Peter Walker tweeted: 'This is a Labour Party political event. Yes, the women have had to sit apart from the men. It is disgraceful'.
Paul Watson wrote: 'The 'progressive' Labour Party hosted an event where men & women were segregated'.
And Ben Archibald said: 'Why did @Ed_Miliband allow a Labour event to proceed with women segregated? Disgraceful'.
Support: A tweet by one of the local Labour organisers, Mariam Khan, shows her posing with Ed Miliband, Yvette Cooper, bottom left, and Harriet Harman, bottom right, in March
Invite: The poster for the rally makes a plea for women to attend, with party sources claiming having men and women separately ensured that women from the city's Muslim communities were able to take part
The event - for a predominantly Asian audience - was advertised as a 'Labour party jalsa / rally' in the Diamond Suite, a venue two miles outside the city centre.
MP FROM PAKISTAN'S 'LITTLE BRITAIN' WHO SAYS HE 'TELLS PEOPLE HOW TO VOTE'
Organised by Birmingham Labour councillor Ansar Ali Khan, a leaflet for the rally adds that Councillor Miriam Khan is organising a 'women's section for jalsa'.
The guest of honour was Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry - the former prime minister of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan - who once bragged he told people in the Pakistani community 'who to vote for'.
In 2010, an election year, he toured Britain and told the BBC he saw himself as a leader of the Mirpuri community, the people of Azad Kashmir, at home and in Britain.
He said: 'I always come during elections. It's basically so I can tell people how to vote and who to vote for.
'Most of the Pakistanis here are from Mirpur, and I am the MP from Mirpur, and I know the issues here and who will be the best candidates to help solve the issues in Kashmir.'
Pictures from inside the room where the rally was held show a clear segregation of the audience.
Critics said it was hypocritical for Labour candidates to take part in a segregated political event even though they stand on a platform of equality for the sexes.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: 'It was a political Labour Party meeting - men sat on the right hand side and women sat on the left hand side.
'I believe that's got no place in modern civilised Britain. I want to know from the Labour Party, how in the name of your party can you have allowed that to have happened?'
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, seen as a leadership rival to Ed Miliband, said that although he was uncomfortable with segregation by sex, it was important to respect the rules of religious organisations.
Asked what he though he said: 'No, I wouldn’t normally say so, we would want everybody to be taking part in this election on an equal basis with no segregation so I don’t know the reasons why the room was organised in that way, I have no insight to give you there, but it is also right that politicians address all audiences and go to all places as part of the election campaign.
'I don’t know why that meeting was conducted in that particular way. I don’t like the idea of segregation, I don’t think it should happen, it should be a completely mixed audience, but you would obviously have to ask the organisers of that event as to why it was done in that way.'
But Labour has refused to condemn the organisers of the event for the gender segregation.