The Chinese government in April 2017 prohibited parents from choosing baby names like Islam, Medina, Jihad and Quran for their children, thereby strengthening its hold on Muslims living in western China.
The ban is a part of the government’s effort to curb religious fervor in the region. Western China or the western region of Xinjiang is home to over 10 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority group.
• The government fears the region to breed Islamic extremism, violence and separatist thought.
• The minority group on the other hand states that it is the government’s restrictions and strict limits imposed on speech and worship that have led to the rise of tension in the region.
• The list titled “List of Banned Ethnic Minority Names” includes over two dozen names including Mujahid, Arafat, Muhammad, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj and Medina.
• In the case of defiance, the parents would risk losing critical benefits for their children including education and health care.
The advocates fighting for the rights of the minority group state that the ban shows the length to which the Chinese government would go to limit the civil liberties of Uighurs in the name of fighting terrorism.
According to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress (a group that advocates self-determination for Xinjiang), the Chinese policies are becoming increasingly hostile and the Uighur have to be extremely cautious if they want to give their children the names chosen by them and avoid punishment from the government at the same time.
Prior to this on 1 April 2017, the Xinjiang authorities had imposed new rules that prohibited people from sporting abnormal beards or veils in public places and also imposed punishments for refusing to watch state television or radio programmes.