Clearly unconcerned with how they will be viewed in the context of the social justice arena, Chinese authorities in one part of that country have taken the extraordinary step of moving to ban a large number of baby names deemed to connote Muslim extremism.
According to Radio Free Asia, officials in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, have declared it to be illegal now for babies to be named Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Saddam, Medina, and Muhammad, as well as a variety of other names of Muslim extraction.
One official, speaking from a police station in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, said that “overly religious” names are now banned, and that if there are any babies registered with any of the banned names, that they will be prevented from gaining access to the system that provides health care and education to local citizens.
Elaborating, the same official said, “You’re not allowed to give names with a strong religious flavor, such as Jihad or names like that. The most important thing here is the connotations of the name ... [it mustn’t have] connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence].”
Even names of Islamic scholars are off-limits. When asked specifically about the possibility of a family member naming a baby with one of those, the government official responded, “Get him to change it; it’s the sort of thing that [could be regarded as] promoting terror and evil cults.”
The Chinese government considers the issue of Islamic extremism to be so compelling in Xianjiang province because of the large number of Muslims living there. The Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, comprise roughly half the population of Xianjiang, and the province directly borders several Muslim countries, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large