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Mustafa Kamel / Abu Hamza

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994389.  Tue May 07, 2013 1:36 am Reply with quote

Saw an old episode of Mock the Week, where Abu Hamza came up, and a panelist said “it's not even his real name”. As his name is Kamel, I thought the QI K series might educate Brits on the existence of other cultures. In this case, naming traditions.

Q: What is this man's name?

Forfeit: Abu Hamza
A: Mustafa Kamel Mustafa

On the British Isles, many patronyms have evolved into family names (eg. Davis, O'Briain, Lloyd). I believe the Brits are still quite patriarchal, so you have concepts such as "mothers maiden name". In Scandinavia this is considered quite old fashioned, and it can lead to (entertaining) confusion.


At a Tony Law show in Copenhagen, he wanted to give pornstar / stripper names to members of the audience, following a rule of “first pet combined with mothers maiden name”.

The scheme broke, as both his two randomly chosen audience members carried their mothers surname, or a combined surname of both parents. They told him of the alternative stripper-name scheme “first pet combined with first street you lived on”, but he was more interested in the liberal attitude towards surnames.

In Iceland they are still quite keen on the patryonmity, so many are named [firstname] [name of father] + sson / dóttir. They mix it up with matronymity, but as far as I know, the patronym is most frequent. In recent years, the other Scandinavian Countries have seen an increase in the use of immediate parentage as a surname.

Back to Hamza
In Arabic naming tradition “ibn” is “son of”, but they also have a reverse reflection in “abu”, meaning "father of". It is a sign of respect to refer to a man as "father of [first born]". Most often first born son, but I have come across families living in Scandinavia, where first born daughter is used.

So when you say “Abu Hamza” rather than “Mustafa Kamel” (not pronounced “must-have-a camel”), you are saluting his ability to reproduce.


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