What’s in a name? If the answer to that question is something that can be perceived as “blasphemous,” “too foreign” or “inappropriate,” it’s likely to be banned in Saudi Arabia.
The interior ministry of Saudi Arabia has released a list of 50 such names, including ones that are affiliated with notions of royalty. Saudi Arabia certainly isn’t the only country to ban “given” names, and plenty of other countries around the world limit the names parents can give to their children for any number of reasons.
For instance, Chinese parents must choose a name whose characters can be typed on a computer keyboard, and Danish parents have to get church approval if they go outside of the parameters of a list of 7,000 preapproved names. France will ban a name if they think it runs contrary to the best interests of a child.
Saudi Arabia’s list is particularly interesting because a number of the names on the list don’t appear to be banned for any reason that makes sense. For instance, Binyamin, an Arabic form of Benjamin, is neither royal, foreign nor blasphemous, which has led some to speculate that it’s “inappropriate,” possibly because any baby with that name would share a moniker with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.
Here’s the complete list of no-no names. See anyone you recognize?
Abdul Aati: Names with the prefix Abdul can be controversial because of the way they are open to interpretation. “Abdul” means “worshipper of” or “slave of,” so if they’re joined with any name but “God,” people might argue that they’re blasphemous.
Sumuw: Loftiness, most high
Binyamin: Arabic form of Benjamin
Malaak: Angel or angelic messenger
Naris: Feminine form of “helper” or “slave of”
Yara: Strong; the spring
Al Mamlaka: The kingdom
Nabiyya: Female prophet
Rama: Name of a Hindu god
Jibreel: Arabic form of the angel Gabriel
Basmala: Utterance of the name of God
Maya: Mother of the Buddha
Iman: The faithful
Maline: Ashkenazic Jewish name
Nardeen: A flowering plant called a spikenard
Bayan: To speak with eloquence
Baseel: Brave, courageous
Kibrial: Another variant of Jibreel or Gabriel
Aram: Of the Aramaic tribes
There you have it: all 50 names banned by the Saudi Arabian ministry. If you see yours up there, don’t worry. There’s something quite mysterious and interesting about having something that other people aren’t allowed to have, especially if it’s your name!