Malaysia to allow Muslim converts to keep surname

People converting to Islam in a northern Malaysian state will be allowed to retain their surname following complaints their rights had been denied, news reports said Sunday. Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin, Perlis state's Islamic religious chief, was quoted by the New Sunday Times as saying many Muslims were mistaken in assuming that converts must adopt the surname "Abdullah." The practice goes against the teachings of Islam, which stresses fairness, equality and respect for one's parents, he said. Asri said the Perlis Fatwa Council issued a "fatwa," or religious edict, stating that converts can retain their original family names to avoid any confusion over their lineage.