Toronto – China has instituted a ban on Muslim baby names in Xinjiang. The restriction will affect more than 10 million Muslim Uyghurs living in the heavily-militarized region.News of the ban came courtesy of a report from US-backed Radio Free Asia. Critics are calling it the latest in a growing number of restrictions being placed on the Uyghur population in what the government is calling a fight to stamp out “religious extremism.” Ugyhurs are the Muslim descendants of Silk road traders and have been established in the region for centuries.Islam, Quran, Saddam and Mecca are just a few of the names identified, although a full list of the banned monikers has yet to be published. The restriction also prohibits any reference to the star and crescent moon symbol. Any child bestowed a Muslim name at their birth will be denied a household registration, or “hukou.” Without this important document, the child will be denied social services including entry to public school.The Chinese government explained the decision by citing their concern that such names could “exaggerate religious fervor.” Uyghurs, on the other hand, are vigorously claiming discrimination and human rights groups agree.According to the Human Rights Watch China director, Sophie Richardson, “This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of ‘countering religious extremism.’”On April 1st of this year, the Chinese government also outlawed “abnormal” beards and veils in public places and imposed a punishment for anyone caught refusing to watch state television.Richardson called these restrictions “blatant violations” of internationally recognized, basic human rights protecting freedom of religious expression. “If the government is serious about bringing stability and harmony to the region as it claims,” she said, “it should roll back- not double down on- repressive policies.”Uyghurs aren’t the only people targeted by the bans. The government has also issued a “serious warning” to any government official deemed too lenient in his or her support for the restrictions.

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