After cracking down on “extremist” clothing and beards, China is now reportedly banning certain religious names for newborns in the far-western Xinjiang region that is home to about half of the country’s Muslim population.
Saddam, Hajj and Jihad are among the 29 names that are now allegedly banned under China’s recently-introduced “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities.” The purported list of names was given last week to Taiwan’s Central News Agency by the exiled World Uyghur Congress.
The US-funded Radio Free Asia phoned a police station in Urumqi where an officer confirmed the ban on “overly religious” names, adding that babies with such names would face being blocked from the country’s all-important hukou system, which provides access to education and healthcare. The police official went on to give more details regarding the rule:
“You’re not allowed to give names with a strong religious flavor, such as Jihad or names like that,’ the official said. “The most important thing here is the connotations of the name … [it mustn’t have] connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence].”
Asked if names of Islamic scholars were acceptable, the employee replied: “Get him to change it; it’s the sort of thing that [could be regarded as] promoting terror and evil cults.”
Asked if Yultuzay, a reference to the star and moon symbol of the Islamic faith, was acceptable, he said: “Actually the star and moon are a pagan symbol.”
“[Mecca] would be a bit over-the-top … I don’t think you could call someone Saddam, either,” he said in response to queries on those names.
“Just stick to the party line, and you’ll be fine,” he said. “[People with banned names] won’t be able to get a household registration, so they will find out from the hukou office when the time comes.”
“They have received training in this sort of thing over here [in Xinjiang] so they’re the experts [on what is allowed],” he said.
The purported ban comes as Xinjiang authorities are launching a renewed crackdown on “religious extremism” in the restive region. Last month, a new regulation was passed by the region’s top legislature which bans 15 types of behavior allegedly linked with “religious extremism,” including: wearing veils, having “abnormal” beards, refusing to watch state television and preventing children from having a national education.
Meanwhile, the regional government demonstrated what would happen to officials who failed to adequately push back against “extreme religious thought,” demoting one village chief for refusing to smoke in front of religious elders last month.
[Images via RFA]
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