The Saudi Arabian interior ministry has announced this week a list of 50 names that parents will be banned from choosing for their children.
The names on the list have been selected for being inappropriate or contrary to the culture of the Kingdom according to the Civil Affairs department.
Officially, there are three broad categories of names that have been banned.
- Names that are considered blasphemous or otherwise offensive to religious sensibilities.
- Names that are connected with royalty.
- Names that are too foreign in their origin.
Blasphemous names include references to certain figures central to Islam like the angel Gabriel, or Jibreel as he is known in Arabic and Basmala which is a word linking to a phrase always said before saying the name of God.
Royal names that have been banned include Amir ('prince'), Malek ('king'), Malika ('queen'), Sumuw ('highness'), and Al Mamlaka ('the kingdom').
Non Arabic names that appear on the list and are therefore considered too foreign include Elaine, Sandy, Alice, Linda and Rama, the name of a Hindu deity.
However, not all the names on the list fit into these categories and it appears that they have been chosen for political reasons.
The name Binyamin also makes the list, but it is simply the Arabic form of Benjamin, who was one of the sons of Jacob. However, it is also the first name of the current, somewhat right wing, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The name Naser means 'supporter' and Abdul means 'servant of', but the name Abdul Naser has been banned, possibly because that was the name of a former Egyptian leader and opponent.
However it is also possible that the name has been blacklisted because it is linked to religious reasons. Abdul also translates as 'worshipper of' and the Saudi Authorities argue that putting anything other than one of the traditional 99 names of God after Abdul would be blasphemous.
Other names with Abdul as a prefix that have been banned t include Musleh meaning 'reformer', Nabi meaning 'God's prophet of guidance', Mu'een meaning 'helper', and Rasool meaning 'God's messenger'.