Local authorities in Indonesia are asking a 42-year-old man to change his name.
That man is Tuhan — a name that, in Indonesian, means “God.”
A local Indonesian news website said the Indonesian Council of Muslim Scholars asked Tuhan to change his name or add the prefix “Abdu” which, when translated, would make his name “Servant of God.”
“We suggest the name change to avoid an interpretation that could lead to idolatry,” the local authority’s chief, Abdussomad Bukhori, reportedly said. “Besides, the name Tuhan is unseemly from a religious point of view.”
Tuhan isn’t sure why his parents gave him that name or why authorities are just now condemning him for it. He also doesn’t claim to be God. (Note: Reports say Tuhan is a carpenter — the same profession many believe Jesus had).
Authorities first found out about the name after an image of Tuhan’s identity card recently went viral.
But the local Indonesian authority isn’t alone in asking for a citizen to change a name because of its religious affiliations. In 2013, a Tennessee judge ordered a family to change their child’s name from Messiah because "[t]he word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Gawker reported.
The couple said they didn’t name the child as a way to honor God. According to Gawker, they just liked the name.
There has also been controversy over the name Muhammad, one of the most popular names in the world and the name of the prophet who founded Islam. The BBC reported in 2007 that a British teacher was arrested after giving a teddy bear the prophet’s name.
Ibrahim Mogra, then chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Interfaith Relations Committee, said Muhammad is a name that should be reserved for people, specifically boys.
"Some of us believe we are assured of heaven if we name our children Muhammad,” he told the BBC.
Some countries ban religious names. For example, GlobalPost reported last year that Saudi Arabia banned names like Linda, Alice and Malika because they were affiliated to royalty or had religious sensibilities.
But not all religious names draw as much controversy. Some of the United States’ most popular baby names have biblical roots, like Michael, Peter and, more recently, Noah. Jesus also ranks in the top 250 baby names in the United States, according to BabyCenter.
And, as GlobalPost pointed out, Portugal used to only allow names that came from the Bible or Christianity.