A judge in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, told a family from Azerbaijan that they could not change their names for German ones, Die Welt newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The couple and their three children wanted to take on German first names and a German family name in order to avoid discrimination and improve their chances of integrating.
But name changes are only allowed in Germany if the reason is considered important – and the judge said that the fact that the original names did not sound German was not enough.
He admitted that discrimination in the work place was “not to be ruled out,” but said it was not the job of a name to try to combat what he called a “social misdevelopment.”
The family’s names were not particularly difficult to spell, and would not give rise to puns or teasing, he said. The fact that the children had names relating to Islam should be no problem, he added, saying that others would not necessarily connect that with actively practising religion.
A study showed last month that women and immigrants were more likely to get a job interview if applications were made without names.