China bans ‘religious’ names for Muslim babies in Xinjiang

A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in this photo taken on March 24, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 April 2017
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China bans ‘religious’ names for Muslim babies in Xinjiang

JEDDAH: China further tightened restrictions on Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang with a ban on Islamic names for babies in an ongoing crackdown that has already seen Muslim women wearing the niqab and men having “abnormal beards” prohibited from using public transportation.
Xinjiang is home to about half of China’s 23 million Muslims.
“This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering ‘religious extremism,’ “ Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement. “These policies are blatant violations of domestic and international protections on the rights to freedom of belief and expression.
“If the government is serious about bringing stability and harmony to the region as it claims, it should roll back — not double down on — repressive policies.”
Names such as Islam, Qur’an, Saddam and Makkah, as well as references to the star and crescent moon symbol, are all unacceptable to the ruling
Communist party. Children with those names will be denied household registration, a crucial document that grants access to social services, health care and education, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.
A full list of names has not yet been published and it is unclear exactly what qualifies as a religious name.
While China blames Uighur extremists for terrorist attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the Uighur threat and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Last month, Xinjiang authorities fired an ethnic Uighur official for holding her wedding ceremony at home according to Islamic traditions instead of at a government-sanctioned venue, according to Radio Free Asia.
The ban stems from China’s crackdowns on the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang. The Communist Party blames religious extremists for violent incidents that have killed hundreds of people. But Uighur rights groups say the crackdowns violate religious expression.
The ban widens host of restrictions that has already seen staff at train stations and airports prohibit women wearing the niqab and men wearing beards access to transportation.
The restriction on beards is now formalized in the new law, which also stipulates that children cannot have names to “exaggerate religious fervor.”


Search for Spanish toddler in well enters fifth day

Updated 11 min 48 sec ago
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Search for Spanish toddler in well enters fifth day

  • Julen Rosello, who is two, fell down a very narrow shaft more than 100 meters deep on Sunday
  • Rescuers are unable to get to where they believe the child is as a layer of earth, sand, and stones believed to have been dragged down

TOLOTÁN, SPAIN: The search for a toddler who fell down a well in southern Spain in a tragedy that has gripped the country entered its fifth day Thursday, with hopes dwindling he would be found alive.
Julen Rosello, who is two, fell down a very narrow shaft more than 100 meters (330 feet) deep on Sunday while playing as his parents had lunch nearby in the town of Totalan near Malaga, family members said.
Rescuers are unable to get to where they believe the child is as a layer of earth, sand, and stones believed to have been dragged down by Julen when he fell have blocked the well.
The toddler is believed to be underneath and the discovery of several strands of his hair by rescuers appears to confirm that theory.
As such, they are digging two tunnels, one parallel to the well and another at an angle aiming to reach Julen.
But the work is complicated by the state of the soil.
Engineer Juan Lopez told reporters that the vertical tunnel was progressing “for the moment without too many problems.”
But the horizontal one is causing “problems,” he added. Excavating that tunnel “within less than two days is really complicated,” he said.
This race-against-time recalls several other high-profile cases in the 1980s.
Alfredo Rampi, an Italian boy, was found dead in a well near Rome in 1981 while Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old girl, was rescued alive from a well in Texas in October 1987 after more than two days inside.