Restrictions on naming children ‘Guru’ in Malaysia

Malaysia | Asia Samachar | 24 May 2015
The Edge Financial Daily (27 April 2015)
The Edge Financial Daily (27 April 2015)

A Malaysian couple who wished to name their son Guru Ram Naidu were unable to do so as the National Registration Department (NRD) had placed a restriction on the word ‘Guru’, reports The Edge Financial Daily.

However, they were allowed to name the child Gururam Naidu.

The issue may be of interest to Sikhs in Malaysia though Asia Samachar  believes it will not impact the general Sikh children naming practices in this country.

Most Sikh names with the addition of the word Guru are usually adjoined to another word, as in Gurcharan, Gurbachan or Gursimran. The followers of the late Yogi Bhajan from the United States group 3HO have named themselves or their children as Guru Dharan Singh or Guru Charan Kaur.



NRD puts restrictions on naming children ‘Guru’ 

By Azril Annual & Terence Fernandez

A Malaysian couple who were prevented from following the family tradition when naming their child are deeply upset with the National Registration Department (NRD) over its little-known rule concerning the word Guru.

In the incident which involved the NRD branch in Sungai Petani, Kedah, the child’s mother, Magesvari Chanthiran, 31, was told that Guru could not be used as a stand- alone word in a name, her brother C Maran said.

The child’s parents, who had wished to name their son Guru Ram Naidu, were told by the NRD that they could not use Guru as a separate word because the depart- ment has a rule against it.

A Sanskrit word which means teacher in many Indian languages and Malay, it is a common name among Hindus and Sikhs.

In the incident which involved the NRD branch in Sungai Petani, Kedah, the child’s mother, Magesvari Chanthiran, 31, was told that Guru could not be used as a stand- alone word in a name, her brother C Maran said.

The child was born two years ago but the parents misplaced the birth document and they needed to request for a replacement, said Maran. They finally went to register the boy’s name in January this year.

After the matter was brought to the attention of the department’s state headquarters in Alor Setar, Magesvari had to compromise and name her child Gururam Naidu.

Maran said the family is unhap- py over the compromise but does not wish to prolong the matter.

“Guru is my nephew’s family name. Ram would be his name and Naidu is his caste name. There’s a meaning behind all of it,” he told The Edge Financial Daily.

However, what annoyed the fam- ily even more, according to Maran, was that the NRD officer in attend- ance had allegedly said Guru is a Muslim word, so non-Muslims are barred from using it.

“I wanted to know if it is against regulations for non-Muslims to carry the name Guru. I wanted to know if it is reserved like the royal names of Tengku, Tunku, Syed and Megat … so I contacted the offices in Penang and Alor Setar, and both [of the persons I spoke to] said there’s nothing of the sort.

“When we finally got the birth certificate it wasn’t the name that we first applied for. We are not hap- py. I don’t know why the name Guru can be used in Alor Setar and Penang but not Sungai Petani,” Ma-ran complained.

NRD public relations head Fara Maya Ahmad Jelani said that the departmental circular on the use of names — including Guru — had been issued many years ago and is “not a new thing”.

“In Malay, Guru is considered a kata nama khas (special title) re- served for luminaries. It is used in the context of Guru Besar (headmaster), for instance, and it is akin to Professor and the like.

“Therefore, to avoid confusion, we don’t allow the word Guru as a stand-alone name. The word Guru can be used but it must be joined with another word — in this case, Gururam. This sort of compromise has been around for quite some time. “This was how we resolved the Sungai Petani case. We request- ed that they merge the name,” said Fara Maya.

n response, MIC leaders criticised the NRD for stopping the couple from naming their child in line with the family norm.

MIC deputy president and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam called the depart- ment’s action a mistake and said it was ignorant of the officer to dis- allow the name and to request a compromised name for the boy.

“Guru is used as a name by many Indians. Names like Guruseelan and Gurumoorthy are quite com- mon among Malaysian Indians. I feel it is a mistake by an ignorant officer,” said Subramaniam in an SMS reply.


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