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

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.”


Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

Muslims attend Friday Prayers at the Great Mosque of Al Azhar in Jakarta, Indonesia, as government eases restrictions amid a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, June 5, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 June 2020

Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

  • Mosque capacity reduced to half, with health protocols in place
  • Jakarta remains center of the pandemic in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Mosques in Jakarta welcomed congregations for Friday prayers for the first time after an 11-week shutdown due to coronavirus curbs as the Indonesian capital began to ease control measures.

“I am grateful I can perform Friday prayers again after almost three months,” Ilham Roni, a worshipper at Cut Meutia Mosque in Central Jakarta, told Arab News.

“As a Jakarta resident, I have been complying with city regulations. Now that we can pray again, I follow the health protocols by maintaining social distance, wearing a facial mask and washing my hands (before entering the mosque).”

Mosques are opened by a caretaker 30 minutes before prayer starts and are closed 30 minutes after the conclusion of the congregational prayer.

Caretakers at Al I’thisom Mosque in South Jakarta have been preparing since Tuesday, even before Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced on Thursday that the city is extending its COVID-19 restrictions for the third time since measures came into force on April 10.

The capital is easing lockdown curbs in phases, starting with the reopening of places of worship on Friday, although capacity has been halved and strict health protocols put in place.

“We did not know if we would be allowed to reopen the mosque, but we kept preparing to put out markings just in case, and on Thursday we got the confirmation,” one of the mosque caretakers Sumidi, who goes only by one name, told Arab News.

He said the mosque now can only accommodate 400 worshippers out of its normal 1,000 capacity.

Caretakers have put up markings to keep a 1.2-meter distance between worshippers inside the mosque, while in its parking lot, the distance is maintained at 97 cm. Hand-washing facilities have been installed at the entrance.

The governor did not set a fixed date for the extension to end, although the most likely time frame is until the end of June as the city is in a transition mode throughout the month.

Workplaces and businesses with standalone locations can open from June 8, to be followed by non-food retailers in malls and shopping centers from June 15. Recreational parks will be allowed to reopen on June 21.

“Essentially, all activities are allowed to accommodate 50 percent of their normal capacity and by strictly maintaining social distancing measures. The movement of people has to be engineered to meet this criteria,” Baswedan said during a live press conference. “This is the golden rule during the transition phase.”

"If we see a spike in new cases during this phase, the city administration will have to enforce its authority to halt these eased restrictions. It is our ‘emergency brake’ policy,” Baswedan said.

Jakarta remains the center of the pandemic in Indonesia, although infections in the city no longer account for half or more of the national tally, as has been the case since the outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in early March.

As of June 5, Jakarta accounts for 7,766 cases of infections out of the 29,521 in the national total, with 524 deaths out of 1,770 who have died in the country.

Baswedan said since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, the city has seen a significant drop in infections and deaths following a peak in mid-April.

But the transition phase depends on the residents’ continued strict compliance with virus-control measures, he said.

“We will evaluate by the end of June. If all indicators are good, we can begin the second phase,” Baswedan said.

“We don’t want to go back to the way it was in the previous month.”