China Bans 'Extreme' Islamic Baby Names Among Xinjiang's Uyghurs

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A Uyghur woman is shown with her children in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in a file photo.
A Uyghur woman is shown with her children in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in a file photo.

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, RFA has learned.

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.

"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.

Mainstream names

A source meanwhile told RFA that the safest names for Uyghurs are those that sound more "mainstream."

"I have been talking to friends in Xinjiang about this, and they all say that any with potentially extremist overtones will be banned, but names like Memet ... that you see everywhere are considered more mainstream by the Chinese Communist Party," the source said.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, said the Chinese government is continuing to suppress traditional Uyghur culture by controlling what Uyghurs can call their children.

"In setting limits on the naming of Uyghurs, the Chinese government is in fact engaging in political persecution under another guise," Raxit told RFA. "They are afraid that people with such names will become alienated from Chinese policies in the region."

"Yultuzay, for example, is seen by the Chinese government as carrying separatist connotations, to do with religion," he said. "They are placing limits on Uyghurs' religious beliefs."

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.”

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (3)


from London

That's ridiculous, muslims don't name their children jihad and quran.

Jun 10, 2017 09:18 AM

Anonymous Reader

Nobody is going to kill you, that is unreasonable fear mongering. Assimilation is best for everyone.

May 23, 2017 05:01 PM

Anonymous Reader

The name and other restriction is a system, its aim is to ake Uyghur people bacome a bunch of coward, so that they can assimilate or even kill us all without any resistence.

May 05, 2017 01:25 AM

Peter Eriksson

from Stockholm Sweden

The qouran contains aggressions and so Long islamic cultures act aggressive somtimes , the governant MUST Keep extra Control över the muslims ! !

Religion is like an opinion , don't you like the konsekvenser of beeing a muslim , stop to be a muslim and learn to fit in to your mothercountry where yoy live !

I may move to China some day beacuse Sweden got huge problems with the criminal muslims who kill people on the Street in daylight with Guns but in China people Åre protected from that !

If Sweden don't change the way about how to treat the muslims soft and Nice , Sweden WILL turn to be like Southafrica . . Crazy criminal will Take over averything and people get murdered for a ciggaret ! !

Ps: I have Read some ov the qouran , hadits and the sunni , there Åre Books of horror . . . That Mohammed was a psyco and the devil was his leading guide ! !

May 09, 2017 06:33 AM


from London

Peter Erikson that is an absolutely disgusting mindset to carry. You must be very simple minded to believe and be fed the muslim scapegoat rhetoric. Instead of reading this and associating it with the dehumanising and intolerant nature of behaviour towards the Ughyurs which should stop, you add to it with your own uneducated and uncultured beliefs against basic human rights. If you don't stand against this, how can you be confident it won't happen to you? You're no more special and you certainly will be at least hoping that someone will speak out for the injustice. This is just a restriction on naming mentioned here, but these people are so marginalised they cannot even practice something as central to their religion as fasting! Dehumanising them to neighbouring countries, and discouraging them from taking them in and giving them safe refuge from the vile people of China in authority over these the Ughyur.

Jun 10, 2017 09:27 AM





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