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China bans Muslim names for babies in Xinjiang

BEIJING: China has banned Islamic names for babies in Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

According to the move, children with the banned names like Saddam or Midina will not be able to get a residence permit called “hukou”, which is required for access to medical and educational services, it said in a statement.

“This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering religious extremism,” the HRW said.

The Xinjiang government claims the names were banned because of their religious connotation, which can “exaggerate religious fervour”, Efe news reported.

Names like Islam, Koran, Mecca, Imam, Hajj, as well as names that have “connotations of holy war [Jihad] or of splittism [sic – Xinjiang independence]” are included in the list.

“You’re not allowed to give names with a strong religious flavour, such as Jihad or names like that,” an official told RFA. “The most important thing here is the connotations of the name … [it must not have] connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence].”

On April 1, the authorities in Xinjiang had also imposed new rules banning “abnormal” beards or a full veil and warned people of punishments for refusing to watch state TV or radio programmes.

Conflicts between the Uighur and the Han, the majority ethnic group in China and who also control the government, are common.

Beijing usually attributes the violence to Islamist groups and secessionists whereas Uighur groups in exile consider the conflict to be a result of repression by the Communist regime.

“Violent incidents and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang have been on the rise in recent years, but the government’s farcically repressive policies and punishments are hardly solutions,” said HRW.

“They are only going to deepen resentment among the Uighurs,” it added.

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