(RNS) -- Muslim religious leaders in southeast Asia have backed awayfrom a fellow cleric's statement that Muslim men could divorce theirwives through e-mail or text messages sent via mobile telephones. Leaders disagreed with comments reported in the media made by HashimYahya, the mufti of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, whoreportedly said that Muslim husbands could start divorce proceedingsthrough electronic messages. Under Islamic law, a husband can leave hiswife under certain conditions if he says "I divorce you" three times. "A person who utters divorce declarations outside a courthouse andnot before (an Islamic) court judge will be fined for the offense," saidAbdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, a representative of the office of Malaysia'sprime minister, according to Bernama news agency. The leader of Indonesia's North Jakarta Religious Court said,"Divorce needs witnesses and has to be delivered clearly, not only byvoice or written messages which can be easily manipulated." In a letter to the Straits Times newspaper, the registrar ofSingapore's Islamic court insisted that "no right-thinking Muslim manshould even consider such an unethical act." "Although divorces via (short messaging service) may be allowed, theSharia court strongly discourages the practice of pronouncing the talaqout of court, regardless of the manner of communicating it," ShaiffudinSaruwan wrote, according to Reuters news agency.
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