They are called Mohamed: “It goes far beyond the religious, it is also cultural”


At the very beginning of his show (1), Mr. Nouar, his stage name, introduces himself: “My name is Jean-Baptiste”, the comedian advances seriously, triggering the audience’s hilarity. It is only after making sure that Eric Zemmour is not in the room, that he declines his real first name: Mohamed. Mohamed, two years ago entered the top 20 most frequently used names in France. Mohamed, which, with its multiple variants, is even the most widely shared first name in the world.

→ READ. “Identity, talk about it without getting angry”, our dossier

So, of course, the actor doesn’t think about his first name “Every morning when you wake up”. But society has sometimes taken it upon itself to remind him how much these seven letters could convey fantasies, clichés, fears. “Some people imagine that anyone who bears this first name can only be pious, very practicing, if not extremist. That he poses a threat to their own identity. “ This distorting mirror stood in front of him a few years ago while he was looking for accommodation. Barely enough time to give name and surname, the doors closed.

However, the 33-year-old actor refuses to pay into the “Paranoid” and to put the least of his failures on the account of a first name “Connoted”. He also knows that many other factors come into play. “In the popular district where I grew up, in Perpignan, my gypsy friends, bearing Christian names, also encountered discrimination. Sometimes simply because of their address ”, ensures the humorist.

M like Matthieu, O like Olivier, H like Henri…

Nevertheless, the painful memory of this apartment search inspired him to write a new sketch. On the phone, to coax the owner, he does not immediately reveal his first name but spells it first, taking a detour by first names “Good from here”: M like Mathieu, O like Olivier, H like Hubert, and so on … “My way of gently defusing certain tensions in the public debate”, he explains.

The climate has become very tense with the protests of Eric Zemmour advocating the “Frenchization” of first names. “That we are there in the France of 2021, yet faced with many other problems, stuck me!” “, protests Mohamed Amara, vice-president of the Pau-Béarn-Pyrénées agglomeration community. “A first name is like a last name. To question it is to question the link with the parents. It’s almost as absurd and violent as asking a person to change their skin color or gender! “

“It goes far beyond the religious”

He was born in 1953 in Algeria, “In what was then a French department, at a time when Mohamed was on the list of first names accepted by the French Republic”. Mohamed Amara is the eldest of a family of seven children. “In the Maghreb, tradition has it that the first boy is called Mohamed. It goes far beyond the religious, it is also cultural, estimates this mathematician. And in terms of first names, it is up to each generation, even after coming to France, to manage its link with origins. This is something intimate. “

He who chaired the University of Pau for eight years is convinced that his first name has not weighed in anything on his academic career – “We judge the person by what he is worth, by what he knows” – nor on his career in politics, in a Béarn “Known for his open-mindedness”.

“Fully French and fully Muslim”

Anyway, the first name Mohamed has imposed itself on him… This is not the case for Mohammed Colin, founder of the Muslim news site SaphirNews. Aged 12 during his conversion which brought him closer to his mother’s faith, the teenager chose to refer to the prophet of Islam. “It was a way to materialize my commitment. But contrary to what my imam then told me, I could very well have continued to call myself Martin, the first name which appears on my identity card and which some of my relatives continue to use ”, indicates the one who became a journalist.

→ PORTRAIT. Mohammed Colin, serving the debate

“I would no longer advise converts to systematically replace their first name with an Arabic first name or one perceived as Muslim. The first name does not influence religious identity ”, he assures. However, he continues to sign his articles Mohammed Colin, “A bit like a pseudonym, a link between different parts of society”. Way to show that we can be “Fully French and fully Muslim”.

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