August 8, 2001 12:40 PM PDT

Singapore bans text-message divorce

SINGAPORE--It may be legal in Dubai, but Muslim authorities here have annulled divorces via short text messaging.

Short text messaging, or SMS, allows people with cell phones to send text messages from one phone to the next.

In an about-face from their decision last month to let men divorce their wives by a text message on their mobile phones, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages released a statement Tuesday saying they were "unanimous in their view that divorce through SMS is unacceptable."

Their new stance against wireless divorces comes from "elements of doubt" over the sender's identity and sincerity.

In a June report in Gulf News, there were 16 cases of divorce by SMS in Dubai between April and June. In one case, a man sent his wife a message reading: "Why are you late? You are divorced."

Abdel-Salam Darwish, a family adviser in the Family Reconciliation section of the Dubai courts, told the paper that his department had made inquiries with scholars from the Dubai Awqaf and Islamic Affairs department, the Arabic and Islamic Studies College in Dubai, and others in Saudi Arabia.

"All have said that the divorce is valid, as the husband expressed the will to divorce and the wife received it," Darwish said.

However, Muslim authorities in Southeast Asia said last month that while SMS divorces are possible under Syariah law, a simple text message would not satisfy all the rules for a divorce.

In Tuesday's statement, the local authorities stressed that "many issues...have to be decided or confirmed before a decision can be taken or a ruling made," The Straits Times reported.

"Only a judge can confirm a divorce after deciding that there is merit in the complaint filed by the couple with the Syariah Court," the statement added.

CNET Singapore's Susan Tsang reported from Singapore.

 

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