A Berlin court ruled this week that a man suspected of being one of Germany's leading radical Islamists, can name his son "Djehad," an alternative spelling of the Arabic word jihad. A city official had previously rejected the name because of its connotation of Islamic holy war.
A city official said it had rejected listing the name in the city's birth registry because it could endanger the child's welfare. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the term "jihad," which in the West is usually regarded as meaning "holy war," has had negative connotations in Germany. The child's father himself, German-Egyptian Reda Seyam, is being monitored by German intelligence agencies and is known to have fought as a jihadist in Bosnia.
But this week a local superior court, following previous rulings in an administrative court and a regional court, said the name was unobjectionable.
In its ruling overturning the city's decision, the court argued that "Djehad" is a common first name for Arab males that also evokes the duty of Muslims to promote their faith both spiritually and within society. The use of the word as a first name, the court argued, was in no way denigrating or offensive.
The court conceded that, in recent years, radical Islamists have used the term to express the idea of an armed struggle against people who don't share their faith. But that could not justify a restriction of the right of the parents to choose their child's name as they see fit, they said, adding that the parent's motives for selecting the name were irrelevant.
Child's Father a Radical Islamist
The case has drawn widespread attention in Germany because it pitted Seyam against the city of Berlin. For the past three years, he has been fighting a court battle to name his youngest son, who is now four, Djehad. German and US intelligence officials believe Seyam may have ties to al-Qaida and terrorism, but they have been unable to deliver the evidence required to prosecute the Islamist. Recently, though, Munich's public prosecutor filed charges against Seyam and seven others accusing them of using the Internet and conducting seminars to attract Germans to the jihadist cause.
According to a report by Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, Seyam moved to Germany in 1988, married a German woman and then left for Bosnia in 1994, where he joined other Muslims in waging jihad during the Balkans war.