Authorities in western China are prohibiting parents from naming their children Islamic names.
Fox News reports this as the country’s latest effort to dilute the influence of religion on life in the ethnic Uighur minority heartland.
“Muhammad,” ”Jihad” and “Islam” are among at least 29 names now banned in the heavily Muslim region.
If a parent chooses one of the barred names, the child will be denied government benefits.
The names listed on the government document disseminated by Uighur groups include several related to historic religious or political figures and some place names.
“Imam,” ”Hajj,” ”Turknaz,” ”Azhar” and “Wahhab” are on the list, as well as “Saddam,” ”Arafat,” Medina” and “Cairo.
Judgment calls about which names are deemed to be “overly religious” will be made by local government officials.
The naming restrictions are part of a broader government effort to secularize Xinjiang, which is home to roughly 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic people who mostly follow Sunni Islam.
Top officials including Xinjiang’s Communist Party chief have publicly said that radical Islamic thought has infiltrated the region from Central Asia, protracting a bloody, years long insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives.
Aside from the prohibition on Islamic names, local Xinjiang officials strongly discourages Islamic veils, while government-linked commentators have called for bans of mosques with domes or other Middle Eastern architectural styles.
Uighur activists and human rights groups say that radical thought had never gained widespread traction, but restrictions on religious expression are fueling a cycle of radicalization and violence.