Since entering office in January, President Trump has enjoyed a warm relationship with Saudi royals; bonding most obviously over a mutual distrust of Iranian interests in the Middle East.
Now, just as the U.S. president announced a visit to the Saudi kingdom for the end of May, a Saudi family has sparked debate by deciding to name their daughter after Ivanka Trump.
The reports of a Saudi baby named “Ivanka” first spread on messaging service WhatsApp, where a photograph of a baby's birth certificate featuring the not-very-Saudi-sounding name was widely shared and discussed. According to the birth certificate, the child had been born in the northern city of Arar.
In a series of messages Friday afternoon, a man identified as the father, Salem Amer Salem al-Ayashi al-Anzi, said it was true that he had named his daughter after Ivanka Trump.
“I admire the leadership of her father,” al-Anzi explained, adding that Trump had taken revenge for “innocent children” by firing “70 missiles” at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Anzi was referring to reports that Trump's decision to strike Syrian government targets after a suspected chemical weapons attack had been motivated by his daughter, who had seen footage of children harmed in the attack.
Al-Anzi added that he was happy that Trump was visiting Saudi Arabia and meeting with the Saudi king during his visit in May.
Among Saudi social media users, there was debate about whether the name was appropriate, with some suggesting the name was unique but others worrying she may face social problems later in life. Al-Anzi said that he had been fielding calls about the name since the news spread.
In an article published Thursday, Saudi news outlet Arab News suggested that al-Anzi had chosen the name after his co-workers told him it would not be allowed by the Saudi government. A friend, journalist Moteeran al-Nams, told the publication that al-Anzi had seen this as a challenge.
“And in our culture, we don’t step back from a challenge,” al-Nams was quoted as saying.
Though the Saudi government does restrict the use of some names, including some linked to royalty, religion or of foreign origin, when al-Anzi submitted the name “Ivanka” to the Civil Status authority of Riyadh, it was approved, Arab News reported. His co-workers were impressed by this feat and paid for a baby shower for the young Ivanka in response.
Not all Saudi citizens may be as positive about the new Trump family as al-Anzi. One poll conducted in late October found that most Saudi citizens had been hoping for a Hillary Clinton presidency and that they held Trump in low regard overall.
However, Trump's intervention in Syria seems to have earned him the respect of at least some in the Arab world, where he has received the nickname Abu Ivanka el-Amriki — Father of Ivanka the American — on social media.
Zakaria Zakaria contributed to this report.
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