China bans religious names for Muslim babies

China bans religious names for Muslim babies

BEIJING: Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have banned dozens of baby names with religious meanings that are widely used by Muslims elsewhere in the world, according to Radio Free Asia.

RFA said that its sources in Hotan, in the southern part of the region, had previously detailed a list of banned names in 2015, but the ban now appears to have been rolled out region-wide.

Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, and Medina are among dozens of baby names banned under ruling Chinese Communist Party’s “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities,” an official confirmed on Thursday.

An employee who answered the phone at a police station in the regional capital Urumqi confirmed that “overly religious” names are banned, and that any babies registered with such names would be barred from the “hukou” household registration system that gives access to health care and education.

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.”

Strike-hard campaigns

China has vowed to crack down on what it calls religious extremism in Xinjiang, and regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.

While China blames Uyghur extremists for terrorist attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.

Last month, Xinjiang authorities fired an ethnic Uyghur official for holding her wedding ceremony at home according to Islamic traditions instead of at a government-sanctioned venue.

Salamet Memetimin, the communist party secretary for Chaka township’s Bekchan village, in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Chira (Cele) county, was among 97 officials recently charged with disciplinary violations, according to an April 10 report by the state-run Hotan Daily newspaper.

Local residents said the woman was relieved of her duties for taking her marriage vows—known as “nikah” in Muslim culture—in her own home.

An official told RFA’s Uyghur service that home wedding vows could give rise to unsanctioned religious leaders promoting “deviant views that contradict ethnic unity and the sovereignty of the county.”

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