Authorities in western China are prohibiting parents from naming their children Islamic names in the latest effort to dilute the influence of religion on life in the ethnic Uighur minority heartland.
"Muhammad," ''Jihad" and "Islam" are among at least 29 names now banned in the heavily Muslim region, according to a list distributed by overseas Uighur activists.
If a parent chooses one of the barred names, the child will be denied government benefits.
The names listed on the government document disseminated by Uighur groups include several related to historic religious or political figures and some place names.
"Imam," ''Hajj," ''Turknaz," ''Azhar" and "Wahhab" are on the list, as are "Saddam," ''Arafat," Medina" and "Cairo."Judgment calls about which names are deemed to be "overly religious" will be made by local government officials, according to Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-funded radio service which first reported the naming directive.
An official at a county-level public security office said some names were banned because they had a "religious background."
It is unclear how widespread the ban is or whether it is tightly enforced.