Saudi Arabia has banned 50 names for babies born in the kingdom, citing a variety of reasons including “blasphemous,” the Dubai-based Gulf News reported. Though it did not fit into any of the stated categories, the first name of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin, is among the banned names.
The interior ministry of the conservative Islamic kingdom “justified the ban by saying that the names either contradicted the culture or religion of the kingdom, or were foreign, or ‘inappropriate,’” Gulf News wrote, quoting Saudi newspapers.
Among the banned names are those that sound foreign and those evoking royalty such as Amir which in Arabic means prince, Malek (king) and Malika (queen).
The ministry published a list that included the popular western girls’ names Linda, Alice, Sandy and Lauren.
“The names fit into at least three categories: those that offend perceived religious sensibilities, those that are affiliated to royalty and those that are of non-Arabic or non-Islamic origin,” Gulf News reported.
“A number of other names appear that do not necessarily fit into any category and it is therefore unclear as to why they would have been banned,” it wrote, pointing to the name Binyamin which means Benjamin in Arabic, the youngest son of the biblical Jacob (Yaqoub) who is considered to be a prophet in Islam. “[B]ut it also happens to be the name of the Israeli prime minister,” Gulf News noted.
Abdul Naser, another of the banned names, is reminiscent of the late famous Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul-Nasser whose pan-Arab aspirations were perceived as a threat by the Saudi royal family.
Comments posted on Gulf News were of mixed sentiment, including these:
“Its Parents decision & right….Not some Govt,” wrote a reader from Dubai.
“Good. More rules, regulations, and laws are exactly what we need in this world right now. This is the only way that our loss of liberties will be substantial enough for people to wake up. Almost every country on this planet needs to have a revolution. Not a religious centered revolt, which will only cause more trouble in future generations, but a rebirth based on freedom for all,” wrote a reader identifying his location as the U.S.
“The rule is applicable to Saudi Arabia, if you are not agreeing then leave Saudi,” wrote a reader in the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country that has tried to have a say in naming babies. In August, a Tennessee judge ordered the parents of a 7-month-old boy to change his name to Martin from Messiah. The name “Hitler” is banned in Germany, and when a Turkish couple living in Germany tried to name their child Osama Bin Laden, local officials refused.
These are the names of the newly banned names as published in Gulf News:
Nabiyya (female prophet)
Al Mamlaka (the kingdom)
Basmala (utterance of the name of God)
Rama (Hindu god)
Binyamin (Arabic for Benjamin)
Jibreel (angel Gabriel)