Officials in China's northwestern Muslim majority region have reportedly banned baby names that have strong religious meanings.
The Xinjiang region is home to a majority of Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority. According to American-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia, the officials who have allegedly banned certain names work in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The ban took effect in the southern region of Xinjiang first, and now officials are enforcing it throughout the region. Names that parents are not allowed to give their children include Mecca, Saddam, Hajj, Islam and Medina.
“The ban is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s 'Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities,'” said an official.
According to a worker at a police station in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, officials have banned “overly religious” names. He further added that any babies who are registered with those banned names would be barred from the government system — which gives a child the right to education and health care.
Another person who remained anonymous said, “I have been talking with friends in Xinjiang about this, and they all say that any with potentially extremist overtones will be banned. But names like Memet — which you see everywhere — are considered more mainstream by the Chinese Communist Party.
Uyghur Muslims have refused to abandon their religious practices. Therefore, the Chinese government aims to limit what it calls religious extremism in Xinjiang. Raids of Uyghur homes and restrictions on Islamic customs are all part of the “strike hard” campaign carried out by the government.
Recently, officials reportedly fired a Uyghur from her post for holding her wedding ceremony at home following Islamic traditions instead of at a government-sanctioned venue.
Not long ago, China also banned Uyghurs from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. In several parts of the region, civil servants, students and teachers were forced to eat and drink during the day. Some halal restaurants were also been told to stay open during day hours in Ramadan or face closure.