Print Version    Email to Friend
What’s in a name? In Xinjiang a lot

HOTAN (SE): “What’s in a name?” is a frequently asked throwaway line, but it seems that if you are a Muslim and live in Xinjiang province of China there may be a lot more than meets the eye.
Provincial authorities have banned dozens of names that have a religious connotation and are widely used by Muslims in other parts of the world from being given to babies.
Hotan, in the southern part of the region, detailed a list of banned names in 2015, but Radio Free Asia reported on April 24 that the ban now appears to have been rolled out region-wide.
Islam, Qur’an, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj and Medina are among dozens of names banned under a ruling from the Communist Party Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities policy, an official confirmed last week.
An employee who answered the phone at a police station in the regional capital of Urumqi confirmed that overtly 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 flavour, such as Jihad or names like that,” the official said. “The most important thing here is the connotation of the name... it mustn’t have any connotation 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 is the sort of thing that could be regarded as promoting terror and evil cults.”
Yultuzay, a reference to the star and moon symbol of the Islamic faith, turns out to be acceptable. “Actually the star and moon are a pagan symbol,” the voice on the telephone said.
“Mecca would be a bit over-the-top... I don’t think you could call someone Saddam, either,” he said in response to a few questions on various names.

More from this section