China has banned dozens of “extreme” names for Islamic babies born in Xinjiang, its northwestern region populated by about half of the country’s 23 million Muslims.
The move comes as local authorities intensify their crackdown on “religious extremism” in the region. As per Radio Free Asia, an official confirmed that the Communist Party’s new “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities” bans monikers such as Islam, Quran, Mecca, Hajj, Imam, Jihad, Medina and Saddam.
There are 29 banned names according to the list given by the World Uyghur Congress to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Shanghaiist noted.
According to an officer in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, infants who are given such names will be denied entry to the “hukou” household registration system, which provides access to healthcare and education. He told RFA:
“You’re not allowed to give names with a strong religious flavor, such as Jihad or names like that. The most important thing here is the connotations of the name … [it mustn’t have] connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence].”
The officer also discouraged names of Islamic scholars as they “[could be regarded as] promoting terror and evil cults.”
Yultuzay, a reference to the star and crescent moon, is also unacceptable as such symbols are “pagan.” “Just stick to the party line, and you’ll be fine,” the officer recommended.
While no official list of banned names has been published, rights groups immediately condemned the move. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement:
“This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering ‘religious extremism.’ These policies are blatant violations of domestic and international protections on the rights to freedom of belief and expression.”
The ban also follows a new law passed by Xinjiang authorities just last month, which includes intolerance to women wearing face veils and men with “abnormal beards.”
What do you think of China’s new naming policy?
Feature Image via Flickr / Omar A. (CC BY-SA 2.0)