Newborn named “Jihad” investigated in Toulouse

Parents are able to give their children any name they like in France, but it must not been seen to be "contrary to the child’s interests"

Parents of a newborn baby named “Jihad” are under investigation by the Mairie (town hall) of Toulouse into whether the name is acceptable or fair on the child.

Born in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne, Occitanie) on 2 October to parents living in Léguevin, west of the city centre, the baby is now the subject of a debate over whether his name is “contrary to his own interests”, as reported across French media this week.

In defense of the name, Muslim commentators have reminded the public that “jihad” does not actually mean what many in the media suggest - the “holy war” associated with terrorism - and etymologically is more aligned to the words “effort” or “struggle”.

“‘Jihad’ does not mean ‘holy war’,” explained Abderrahmane Oumachar, co-founder of the Toulouse Centre for Muslim Spirituality (Centre toulousain de la spiritualité musulmane), speaking to FranceInfo.

“This word actually means the effort people make to do good work, such as a doctor who saves lives. It has nothing to do with the image spread by the media, or of that practiced by criminals who invoke Islam.”

And yet, he concedes that “this name risks being misunderstood, which could damage the child’s development and integration [into society]”.

Article 57 of the civil code in France specifies that parents are able to give their children any name they like, but it must not been seen to be contrary to the child’s interests.

Now, authorities in Toulouse are looking to put the case before a public judge specialising in family issues, who will rule definitively on whether it will be acceptable.

The official French administration website states that “in the absence of a new choice of name by the parents, the judge may offer another name”.

The issue comes soon after a similar case in 2016, in which a couple decided to call their child “Mohamed Merah”. Two months later, the parents conceded, and changed the name themselves.

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