November 29, 2007

Name Crime

The case of the British teacher in the Sudan who has been convicted of blasphemy for allowing her students to name their teddy bear "Mohammed" has received much attention, as it deserves to,including a good summary by our own Geoff Pullum. As an advocate of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, I am appalled that a crime of blasphemy should even exist. What is linguistically interesting is the variation within the Muslim world in the appropriateness of using the name Mohammed. In most of the Muslim world this is a common name for boys, but in Turkey it is considered inappropriate to give a boy the same name as the prophet. In Turkish, the name Muhammed, which closely reflects the Arabic original, is reserved for the prophet. If you want to name your son after the prophet, you must name him Mehmet, the Turkicized form.

Posted by Bill Poser at November 29, 2007 01:08 PM