Egypt To Bar Parents from Giving Children Western Names?

Fredrick Ngugi June 14, 2017
A new law seeks to bar Egyptian parents from giving their newborns Western names. Photo credit: NPR

An Egyptian parliamentary committee is set to discuss a proposed law barring parents from giving their newborns Western names that are “difficult for Arabs to pronounce.”

Under this law, anyone who gives their children foreign names, such as “Mark” and “Lara,” will risk a jail term of up to six months or a fine of between $55 and $270, according to Quartz.

While pushing the bill Monday in parliament, Egyptian legislator Bedier Abdel Aziz argued that the law will help to preserve the Arabic heritage.

“Using such Western names and abandoning Arabic ones will lead to an undesired and radical change in our society and culture,” Abdel Aziz claimed.

“Our sons will no longer be connected to their true identity.”

Finding Better Things To Do

A segment of Egyptians are opposed to the proposed law, with some people criticizing the Egyptian parliament for “wasting time” on less important matters.

Many have taken to social media to trash the draft law and are even asking the government to consider penalizing the MPs for wasting time.

For example, Sherif Hanna wrote on Facebook:

Dear geniuses…names like ‘Mohammed’, ‘Mahmoid’ and ‘Ahmed’ are foreign names. Only native Egyptian names – currently used only by Copts – would technically qualify as native, not foreign. Is that what you really want? Of course not.

Others argue that a law barring parents from giving their babies Western names will be an insult to democracy:

That is rather peculiar. Are we in our way to Iranize Egypt? Besides nobody uses Western names except Coptics and they are free not to choose Arabic names,” Mahmoud Wasfy wrote on Facebook.

What’s In a Name?

If the new law passes, Egypt will not be the first country to ban certain names. Several other countries have prohibited the use of certain names for the purposes of preserving their culture.

In 2014, Saudi Arabia published a list of 50 names, which included the names of Alice, Linda, and Elaine, and cannot be used in the country because they allegedly contradict local culture and religion.

In addition, in Western countries, such as Denmark, names like Pluto and Monkey are forbidden, while New Zealand parents are prohibited from giving their children names like Stallion, Fish, Chips, and Satan.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: June 14, 2017


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