Thursday, 15 August 2013

What's the Problem with Mohamed?

When the Office of National Statistics released the top baby names for 2012 earlier this week, the internet and newspapers were full of it. 

All of the parenting pages on Facebook made posts about it, asking people what they thought, whether their baby's name was on the list etc. I saw more than one comment on these posts saying "sad to see Mohamed is on the list" with a sad or worried emoticon. And I have to say, I was more than a little outraged at those comments.

There were several different entries for "Mohamed" on the list; each with a different spelling. If you'd put all the different spellings into one grouping, Mohamed/Mohammed/Muhamed/Mahamed would actually have been second on the list. Shock! Horror! Those dirty foreigners coming over here, not only do they take our jobs and our houses, now they're invading our lists of most popular names. 

Lots of names in the top 100 for boys and girls have "foreign" origins.
Many of them are Irish names, but that's ok isn't it. After all, every March 17th we all drag out our spurious Irish connections and get drunk on Guinness. It's cool to be Irish.

Amelia, the number 1 girls' name, became popular in this country after the German Hanovers took over the British throne in the 18th century.
Sienna is the name of an Italian city, as is Florence.
Luca is traditionally Italian, Romanian, Hungarian or Croatian.
Kai is Frisian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish or Hawaiian.
Louis is a French name.
Sofia is a Greek name. Maya is often an Indian name.

But Mohammed is the one that causes the problems, the one people complain about being popular. 

There was similar outcry when Coca Cola started putting names on their bottles, and people saw names that were not typically English. Coca Cola printed the 250 most common names in the UK on their bottles, though they left out Mohamed - not really sure why to be honest. But names like Abdul, Amit, Hassan and Gurdeep seem to be upsetting people when they come across them on the shelves in Tesco.

So what's going on? Do we only want children with good Christian names in this country? Or is it just the Muslim names we don't like, and Hindu or Sikh names are ok? 

It's ok for our culture to be "overrun" by European names, but nothing from further afield? Is it a geography thing?

Or do we only want names that sound "white?"

Don't forget that Olympic hero Mo Farrah is a Mohamed. He's originally from Somalia, and moved here when he was 8. We conveniently forget that he's not "proper" English when he's winning all these medals though, don't we. And he calls himself "Mo," so we can forget what his real name is, and everything's ok. Or perhaps it's ok because he's not a real immigrant because his father was born here? So it's ok for him to be called Mohamed because he's not a real immigrant, and he does sports and stuff. The Mobot and all that business.

It makes me really angry when people complain about immigrants. This is a small island; we would all be inbred within a couple of generations if there were no new people about. Since it first came into existence, this island has been invaded by peoples from across Europe. There is no such thing as a "pure" English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh person; we're all descended from the various groups that have invaded over the centuries. These days, new people don't invade; they come here to join and enrich our culture. Wouldn't life be boring, if you never met anyone who looked different to you, who had a different background, different experiences, different language? 

I really don't understand why these people have a problem with Mohamed being a popular name in this country. 


  1. Great post - I love how you highlight the origins of all those other names! I haven't seen anyone commenting about Mohamed being a popular name but then I don't go on parenting sites usually. I wonder if these people realise they are being racist? They would probably be offended if anyone said that to them!

  2. Could not agree more! I have an unusual name that perhaps sounds a bit foreign, and more than once people have commented 'oh I expected you to have a foreign accent with a name like that' or similar. Why should people judge by a name? No one complains when people use names from the Bible, so why not names from the Muslim holy book? You wrote this post a lot better than I could have done, but my sentiments are exactly the same. Hear hear!

  3. It's great hearing the origins from other countries of many of the popular names. I think it's also positive that Muhamed (and the various different spellings) has joined the list and become very popular amongst British.

    There's been quite a backlash against Coca Cola in a few countries for their name campaign. In Israel they didn't include any Arabic names. The Swedish Muslim community asked that Muhamed be excluded from the campaign. Some fear that adding the name of the Islamic prophet to Coke bottles could offend religious sensitivities.


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