Xinjiang bans names ‘that smack of religious extremism’


A summary of today’s top news in Chinese society and culture. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "The robot Chinese journalists are coming."

Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-funded media organization, reports that “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,” including “Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, and Medina.” The local government of Hotan, an oasis town in southern Xinjiang, had reportedly issued a list of banned names in 2015, but the ban apparently now applies to all of Xinjiang. Radio Free Asia called a police station in the regional capital of Urumqi, where the person who answered the phone confirmed that “overly religious” names are banned, and 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].”

The name bans are part of a set of new rules issued by the Xinjiang government intended to counter religious extremism. SupChina could not locate a copy of the rules online, aside from a screenshot of them (in Chinese) circulating on Weibo. In this document, no specific names are mentioned — the rules simply prohibit “choosing names that smack of religious extremism” (起名渲染宗教狂热的 qǐmíng xuànrǎn zōngjiào kuángrè de). Therefore, the Radio Free Asia report’s list of prohibited names seems to be taken from the interview with the police station rather than from the rules themselves.