EGYPT – Proposed law to ban Western names targets Christians
Egypt’s parliament is currently debating a ban on Western names in a move that appears to target the Christian population. If the proposed bill is passed, Egyptian parents who give their newborn children Western names will face a fine of up to LE5,000 ($280) and a six month prison sentence.
The draft law was introduced by MP Bedier Abdel Aziz who claims that not only are Western names like “Lara” and “Mark” harder to pronounce but the law is necessary to protect Egypt’s heritage: “Using such Western names and abandoning Arabic ones will lead to an undesired and radical change in our society and culture. Our sons will no longer be connected to their true identity,” Abdel Aziz stated.
Not everyone in Egypt is convinced and several users on Egypt Independent Facebook page have criticized the proposed legislation. It seems strange that Egypt’s parliament is focusing on trivial matters like a ban on Western first names when they have more urgent issues to focus on. Unemployment is high, inflation is at 30 per cent and increased terrorist attacks have seriously affected the tourist industry.
Egyptian Copts have expressed deep concern that the current government is not doing enough to protect Christians who suffer mob attacks, terrorist attacks and discrimination by society. Many have observed that the parliamentary proposal to ban foreign names primarily targets Christians who often use Western versions of biblical names. Many have taken to social media to voice their concerns. Among them is the Professor of politics at Nile University, Timothy E Kaldas.
If the law is passed, Egypt will not be the first country to ban foreign names for newborns. In 2014, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on 51 names for a variety of reasons including “foreign” origins, affiliations with royalty or unfavoured politicians,, not being in line with social traditions or for religious connotations including blasphemy.