Georgia grants couple's request to give daughter surname 'Allah'

Published: April 21, 2017

Georgia officials have granted a couple’s request to issue a birth certificate giving their toddler daughter the surname “Allah” after earlier refusing to do so because neither parent has that name, civil liberties advocates said on Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought a lawsuit, called the decision a victory for free expression, but a top official with the largest US Muslim advocacy group criticized the choice to use the Arabic word for “God” as culturally insensitive.

ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah, who will soon turn 2, was born in Atlanta to parents Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk, who waited about a year before seeking a birth certificate for the child.

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While they had no difficulties obtaining birth certificates for their older children, ages 3 and 17, who also have the surname “Allah,” a clerk for the Georgia Department of Health blocked the request for the youngest child.

Last month, the ACLU filed suit in state court against the leaders of the state department of health and the state office of vital records to compel them to allow the surname chosen by the parents, said Sean J Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia.

Georgia law requires that clerks allow any name chosen by the parents as long as it is not provocative or offensive, Young said in a phone interview. The department relented on Friday, and the ACLU dropped the suit.

Nihad Awad, national director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that while many people have names that are derivations of Allah, such as Abdullah, which means “servant of God,” using “Allah” as a stand-alone surname was not culturally acceptable.

“You would never use just Allah. That would be considered very inappropriate,” Awad said in a phone interview.

Young said he did not know if the couple were Muslim but that he considered the question legally irrelevant.

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Handy and Walk, who were not available for comment, live together in Atlanta and are expecting a fourth child, Young said.

“This is an important vindication of parental rights,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “No one wants to live in a world where the government can dictate what you can and cannot name your child.”

A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Health declined to comment on the matter.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • mohammad khan
    Jun 15, 2017 - 2:59AM

    This was disgraceful the parents should have consulted Muslim organizations before using Allah. which is mockery of G-D you would not call your child YHWH but derivatives of it like Yaramiyah etc. Muslims many derivatives like that. In Fiji a Christian convert Vijay Kumar named his son Jesus. There was an out cry by Christians , he was told to change it or else he will be killed. Fijians are usually very tolerant people . There never had been any trouble based on religions Asian Hindu Muslims respect each others like a family. So do the native Christians. Yet there are millions of Muslims and Arab Christian who have name ISSA (Arabic for Jesus) and in South America Millions have name like Jesus as a prefix or Suffix to other names. This cuople seems to be Muslim having first Muslim names like Zulekha and Bilal but they did not know how to use the word Allah as prefix or suffix.Recommend

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