Banned Baby Names: Egypt Debates Outlawing 'Western' Names Like Mark, Sam and Lara

An Egyptian parliamentary committee is due to meet Tuesday to discuss a potential ban on Western baby names. Under the draft law proposed by member of parliament Bedier Abdel-Aziz, giving a child a non-Arabic name could merit up to six months in prison and a fine of $56 to $278.

According to the Egypt Independent, Abdel-Aziz’s reason for suggesting the ban is that Western names such as Lara, Mark or Sam are difficult for Arab speakers to pronounce. “ Using such Western names and abandoning Arabic ones will lead to an undesired and radical change in our society and culture,” Abdel-Aziz added. “Our sons will no longer be connected to their true identity.”

Not everyone in Egypt is convinced. In comments on the Egypt Independent Facebook page, users criticized his proposed legislation.

“How ridiculous... oh how stupid is this!!!!! As if we haven't got more pressing problems here!!!!!,” wrote Facebook user Janice Elwan.

“The problem arises from the citizens who elected this MP who chooses to bring out crazy senseless topics,” said user Emad Gobran. “I believe there is a lot of topics that [are] worth discussion than [this]!”

Some commentators also pointed out that the law might disproportionately affect Egypt’s minority Christian population which is more likely to use Western names than the country’s Muslims.  

If the law passes, Egypt will join several other countries in imposing restrictions on baby names. In 2014, Saudi Arabia banned 51 names that had foreign origins, religious connotations or were not in line with social traditions. Among the 51: Emir, Linda, Laureen and Abdul Nasser (the name of an Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was hostile toward Saudi Arabia).

In addition to the Gulf state, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France and Sweden have a ban on baby names that could cause offense or difficulty to the person with that name. In 1982, when Sweden first introduced its law, it was actually intended to prevent non-nobles giving themselves aristocratic names.

Now the names its government has banned include Ikea and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (intended to be pronounced as Albin).