Outlawed Uyghur names

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The Chinese government is troubled by the ongoing unrest in Xinjiang, the westernmost region of the country. The authorities attribute the turmoil to what they refer to as religious extremism, which, they believe, leads to terrorism. Moreover, religious extremism also foments separatism, which the government is dead set against. In an effort to reduce the impact of religious extremism, the government bans many cultural practices that they assert are manifestations of undesirable ideological tendencies.

Here, for example, is a sign that was posted outside hospital in Yining forbidding the burka, unusual facial hair, the hijab, the symbolism of the crescent moon with star, and any apparel conveying pronounced religious sentiments:

(Photograph courtesy of an anonymous colleague)

Those are just things that people wear.  The government has also forbidden names of which they disapprove.  This is the official announcement outlawing 22 Muslim first names in Hotan prefecture, which has probably experienced more violence in recent years than anywhere else in Xinjiang, as circulated on Sina Weibo (microblog) and social media:

From "Chinese Authorities Ban Muslim Names Among Uyghurs in Hoten" (9/24/15).

The banned male names are Bin Laden, Saddam, Hussein, Arafat, Mujahid, Mujahidulla, Asadulla, Abdul’aziz, Seyfulla, Guldulla, Seyfiddin, Zikrulla, Nesrulla, Shemshiddin and Pakhirdin.

The banned female names are Amanet, Muslime, Mukhlise, Munise, Aishe, Fatima, Khadicha.

The following are some previous posts on the Uyghurs, their language, and their culture:

There was one other post that I wanted to write, but can't right now find the photographs I took to document it (I'm sure they'll turn up later, but who knows when?).  This would have been about five years ago in a museum in one of the small cities along highway G30 north of the Tian Shan (Tängri Tagh; Heavenly Mountains), probably Shihezi or Changji.  On the labels in the museum, every single time they wanted to write "Uyghur" in the English text, they wrote instead "Yoghurt".  I thought that was especially hilarious, because it was just around the time we were having our discussions on the pronunciation of "Uyghur", "Yoghurt", and "Yaourter" on Language Log.

[h.t. Ben Zimmer]


  1. Neil Dolinger said,

    October 10, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

    I am surprised that while the female names Fatima and Aishe are outlawed, Mohammed is not. I am even more surprised that Jihad is not one of the outlawed names.

  2. Eli Nelson said,

    October 10, 2015 @ 7:55 pm

    Outlawing the name "Mohammed" would probably provoke a very large negative reaction.

  3. minus273 said,

    October 11, 2015 @ 11:10 am

    Because nobody will be named "Jihad", the semantically more natural forms "Mujahid, Mujahidulla" are outlawed.

  4. Yuval said,

    October 12, 2015 @ 9:40 am

    minus273 – Jihad is a very popular Arabic name, at least in these parts. Not sure about China.
    I share the bewilderment re Fatima and Aisha.

  5. JK said,

    October 13, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

    Interestingly, Seyfiddin is the name of the first chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saifuddin_Azizi) and he was widely praised in official media upon the 100th anniversary of his birth this year as a model of ethnic unity and patriotism. But he also was not thanked by name in the speeches at the recent celebration of the Autonomous Region's 60th anniversary, while Wang Zhen and Wang Enmao were, so perhaps there is still some official unease about building him up as a major historical figure.

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