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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Anger over mobile divorce ruling
Malaysian women shopping
Divorce could be just a text message away
By BBC religion reporter Corinne Podger

A leading woman member of Malaysia's ruling party has condemned a ruling by a senior cleric giving Muslim men permission to divorce their wives by sending a mobile phone text message.

Azalina Othman, an outspoken lawyer and head of the Puteri wing of the United Malays National Organisation, says the move may trivialise divorce.

The Puteri, or "Princess" wing of the Umno was set up to attract young professional women to the ruling party.

Miss Othman, was reacting to a statement last week by senior Malaysian cleric, Hashim Yahya.

Islamic divorce

A precedent for text message divorces was set last month in Dubai when a 26-year-old woman was divorced by her husband by mobile phone.

Under Islamic law, Muslim men who want a separation must first make a declaration by saying "I divorce you" three times.

But Miss Othman says divorce is not a matter to be taken lightly, and that it is inappropriate to use mobile phones to end a marriage.

She has called on the Malaysian Government not to validate divorce declarations sent by text message, and says divorce cases must continue to be heard and decided in court, to give both parties an opportunity to present evidence.

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