(RNS) -- Muslim religious leaders in southeast Asia have backed away from a fellow cleric's statement that Muslim men could divorce their wives through e-mail or text messages sent via mobile telephones. Leaders disagreed with comments reported in the media made by Hashim Yahya, the mufti of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, who reportedly said that Muslim husbands could start divorce proceedings through electronic messages. Under Islamic law, a husband can leave his wife under certain conditions if he says "I divorce you" three times. "A person who utters divorce declarations outside a courthouse and not before (an Islamic) court judge will be fined for the offense," said Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, a representative of the office of Malaysia's prime 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 by voice or written messages which can be easily manipulated." In a letter to the Straits Times newspaper, the registrar of Singapore's Islamic court insisted that "no right-thinking Muslim man should even consider such an unethical act." "Although divorces via (short messaging service) may be allowed, the Sharia court strongly discourages the practice of pronouncing the talaq out of court, regardless of the manner of communicating it," Shaiffudin Saruwan wrote, according to Reuters news agency.
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