In response to unrest in the predominantly Muslim portions of far western China, Beijing has banned baby names that refer to the name of the prophet of Islam.
Local authorities in the far western reaches of the world’s fourth-largest country have received notice that babies can no longer be named as anything that could be construed as religious, in an expansion of rules implemented in 2015 which restricted the use of Muslim proper names, including Fatima or Muhammad, for newborns, according to Ft.com.
A public official in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi stated, “We received a notice from municipal authorities that all those born in Xinjiang cannot have overly religious or splittist names.”
“If your family has circumstances like this,” the official is quoted as saying, “you should change your child’s name.”
Xinjiang is home to some 11 million ethnic Uighurs — a predominantly Muslim culture — as well as many Mongolians, Tajiks and Kazakhs, who see Beijing’s naming restrictions as a form of discrimination directly aimed at their culture.
Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch, said that choosing baby names should be a “joyful, private discussion.”
“This is the latest absurd restriction that the Chinese government has imposed on people in Xinjiang,” she wrote in an email.
“China’s practice is becoming increasingly hostile,” said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesperson for the World Uigress Congress.
It is an activist group based in Munich, Germany, working for the Uighurs to gain an increased degree of autonomy in Xinjiang.
Earlier in April, a similar ban came into force. Then the Chinese authorities banned long beards and face covering veils in the western region of Xinjiang which is home to around 10 million Uighur Muslims.
Over the past few years, Xinjiang has been the scene of clashes which China blames on the Uyghurs who in turn claim they face cultural and religious repression and discrimination.