What evidence exists to confirm or deny the original story?
No, while it was widely reported, the Saudi government has denied it.
Many sources such as the Washington Post, Daily mail, Direct matin, Gulf News, Le Monde, Le Figaro or Al HUffington Post (Maghreb) reported that, Thursday March 13th 2014, the Saudi Ministry of Interior published a list of 51 names that were declared as "non compliant with the country culture or religion". Therefore, according to such decree, parents cannot give to their children:
- some occidental names, e.g. Alice, Linda ...,
- names with royal connotation royale such as "Amir" (prince) or Malika (queen),
- or just "inappropriate", i.e Benyamin that evokes Israel Prime minister.
However, March 18th 2014 the following article was issued on 5Pillars-UK:
The Saudi Ministry of Interior has denied releasing any statement banning 50 names deemed blasphemous or unacceptable and said any name can be used as long as it abides by Civil Status laws.
After the story went viral on social media Mohammed Al-Jaser, Saudi Civil Affairs spokesman, said that certain names cannot be registered if they do not adhere to Islamic law. Among these are westernized names, socially unacceptable names or names with blasphemous connotations.
Names such as “Abdul Rasool” or “Abdul Nabi” (slave or worshipper of a prophet or messenger) and names with religious connotations, such as “Malak,” are also forbidden. Other names such as “Humair,” which resembles the Arabic word for donkey, are also deemed socially unacceptable.