China Bans Many Muslim Baby Names in Xinjiang

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. read more

UN rights chief calls for action to head off potential expulsions in

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello today recalled that as the inevitability of war in Iraq became inescapable, he had repeatedly warned about the possibility of retribution against, and likely displacement of, the people brought to northern Iraq under Baghdad’s long-standing policy of Arabization.Stressing that although such “flashpoints” could have been avoided, Mr. Vieira de Mello pointed out that in the wake of reports that perhaps hundreds of families had been forcibly expelled from the towns and villages in and around Kirkuk, the problems of which he had warned were now taking place. “Action should be taken now to protect these populations from intimidation, forced expulsion and other abuses,” Mr. Vieira de Mello said, echoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s concern that unless the security vacuum that now exists is quickly addressed, there was a very real prospect of population displacement in Iraq. In a statement issued by a UN spokesman in New York last week, the Secretary-General appealed to all concerned to respect fundamental human rights principles, including the right to live free from intimidation and forced expulsion. read more