After beards, hijabs, Tajikistan wants to ban ‘Arabic-sounding’ names

Published: May 8, 2015
Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon has instructed the country's Parliament to consider a bill that would ban Muslim-sounding names in the former Soviet republic, officials said this week. Rahmon is shown here during an inauguration ceremony in Dushanbe. PHOTO REUTERS

Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon has instructed the country's Parliament to consider a bill that would ban Muslim-sounding names in the former Soviet republic, officials said this week. Rahmon is shown here during an inauguration ceremony in Dushanbe. PHOTO REUTERS

In what is seen as an extension in an anti-Islam campaign, Tajikistan is deliberating on a legislation that, if passed, would see ‘Arabic-sounding’ names for newborns banned in the Muslim-majority country.

The drive has already resulted in men being forced to shave their beards and women who wear hijab being labeled as prostitutes.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has now directed his parliament to consider a bill that would restrain registration of names which are deemed to be ‘too Arabic’, said an official of the Ministry of Justice, Civil Registry department.

Official Jaloliddin Rahimov said, “After the adoption of these regulations, the registry offices will not register names that are ‘incorrect’ or ‘alien’ to the local culture, including names denoting objects, flora and fauna, as well as names of Arabic origin”.

Read: Tajikistan state TV says prostitutes are wearing hijabs to drive up prices

The move, however, may not remain confined to names of those born after the bill is passed. Some parliamentarian have reportedly demanded that citizens who have names that sound ‘Arabic’ should change them to ‘Tajik-sounding’ ones.

The ministry has also offered help to parents who could not come up with such a name on their own.

Muslims pray at the mosque in Dushanbe. PHOTO: REUTERS

Islam is the largest religion in the country with about 90% of the population Muslim.

The secular government has been worried by what it perceives as rise of Islam in unprivileged and poverty-hit villages which it claims are fast becoming fertile grounds for militancy.

Read: Iran rejects controversial new hijab law

The government has in recent times clamped down on beards and hijab; symbols of Islamic clothing. It has also moved to close independent mosques while prayer leaders have been encouraged to use their sermons to heap praise on the president.

On the other hand, human rights groups have been highlighting that Muslims are arrested on false pretenses, confusing faith with terrorism.

According to analysts, the latest measure would take a very wide net of population into its range if passed.

Interestingly, the president’s name Emomali, a version of ‘Imam Ali’ who was the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and known as the fourth caliph for Sunnis and first imam amongst Shia Muslims.

The move has been met with some opposition, at least on social media:

The article originally appeared on The Guardian

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Reader Comments (46)

  • goggi (Lahore)
    May 9, 2015 - 12:53AM

    I wish we also have our homeland culture and identity and banish Arabic and Persian religious and cultural imperialism out of our country.Recommend

  • Salman - SK
    May 9, 2015 - 12:59AM

    Measures like these initiated the Islamic Revolution in Iran against the Shah and, in not so insignificant manner, suppressive policies did not help the Soviet Union to keep the communist system intact. Dictators never learn. Freedom and liberty never fails. 75 years of communist rule could not subdue the Islamic aspirations of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and other Central Asians, and one Imam Ali Rahman will not be able to do so either. This also applies to those who dictate and suppress in the name of religion.Recommend

  • Rana Malik
    May 9, 2015 - 1:25AM

    Good move if it can stop extremism. Pakistan is already suffering from it because government is not enforcing such bans.Recommend

  • usman777
    May 9, 2015 - 1:27AM

    reminds me of our own immaturity as a state… forcing urdu down the throats of bengalis and ending up exacerbating a non-existent problem. Recommend

  • Babloo
    May 9, 2015 - 1:41AM

    Very good. Go back to the beautiful , pluralistic culture before the 6th century Arabic ideology invaded your land.Recommend

  • hm
    May 9, 2015 - 2:27AM

    There’s so much crazy in the world.Recommend

  • ajeet
    May 9, 2015 - 2:53AM

    Excellent move,. Why should the tajiks name themselves after camel herders.?Recommend

  • Anarchist
    May 9, 2015 - 2:55AM

    They should also ban breathing. Nuts.Recommend

  • usman786
    May 9, 2015 - 3:47AM

    I saw a video it looks as if they r Israeli sRecommend

  • Rahim
    May 9, 2015 - 4:40AM

    Definitely a good move. I wish they would do such a thing in Pakistan where we badly require laws like this! Recommend

  • Rabble
    May 9, 2015 - 5:55AM

    A Muslim country with self respect unlike Bakistan. My salute. Recommend

  • Harish
    May 9, 2015 - 6:30AM

    Even though a bit extreme it is the need of the day. Unless put in leash Islam shows the terrorist tendencies which is threatening the whole world. Should learn from China how it is done.Recommend

  • Shahzad Chaudhry
    May 9, 2015 - 6:50AM

    Wait a minute.
    What will happen if Pakistan pass such law?
    Will whole Pakistan populace change its name to pre Islamic era of land?
    Will they make their local language as national language?
    Switch their clothing from high knees Shalwar to Dhoti?
    Stop eating beef?
    Become Vegetarian?
    At present Pakistan living on borrowed
    Money (USA/IMF/WB/SA etc)
    Language (Urdu is old Delhi Language)
    Dress (Turkey)
    History (From Invader/Looter/Plunderer)
    What you have which you can claim your own? NONE
    ET you must publish this so someone may enlighten me about what hey have originally. Recommend

  • FAIR
    May 9, 2015 - 7:14AM

    That is a welcome move to eradicate religious fundamentalism and prevent creating another failed state in Central Asia. There must be an earnest effort to inculcate scientific temper and wean the people from the poisonous religious fanaticism. State should ensure every kid understand the meaning of theory of evolution, law of conservation of energy and evolution of the universe from the Big Bang, Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 9, 2015 - 7:18AM

    Do Arabs use non Arab names? If not then why should other countries like Tajiks use Arabic names? Nations and countries should be proud of their heritage not petrodollars. Recommend

  • reader
    May 9, 2015 - 8:13AM

    wow how strange. if they have banned beards then obviously it is not very effective as seen from the photograph of the mosque. good luck with forcing all people to change names too. will president sb have to change name also?
    i thought pakistan was dysfunctional, but this is so highly strange…Recommend

  • Vindictive
    May 9, 2015 - 9:29AM

    Blockquote Definitely a good move. I wish they would do such a thing in Pakistan where we badly require laws like this!

    What do you suggest a purely Pakistani cultured name be…? Do you know Urdu has many words borrowed from Arabic itself…? Do you know Urdu has many words borrowed from Farsi also…? What else do you suggest are our cultural norms…?Recommend

  • Shahid Kinnare
    May 9, 2015 - 9:42AM

    First, it not anti Islam it anti Arabic. We as nation should learn from them and also from Bamgladesh. It time to through Arab from Pakistan.Recommend

  • wb
    May 9, 2015 - 9:54AM


    “Definitely a good move. I wish they would do such a thing in Pakistan where we badly require laws like this! ”

    If that happens, what will be your new name? Ram instead of Rahim? :))Recommend

  • May 9, 2015 - 10:22AM

    to tackle religious extremism, secular extremism is being promoted. i think no sensible human can support such move. it will only flare the extremism even more. what is needed is to show the youth to accept more tolerance to different opinions. but these so called seculars are ruining it. how will i answer to the extremist in a debate that a free society give everyone equal rights to practice their religion. i think like we are chanting slogans of saving yemens from houthis, we should also put pressure on tajikistan to get away from such move. Recommend

  • MSS
    May 9, 2015 - 11:16AM

    A corrective but suppressive move. Tajikistan also banned under 18 young men from going to mosques in order to prevent radicalisation some years ago. Drastic but much needed moves by the Tajik government.Recommend

  • S!D
    May 9, 2015 - 2:00PM

    Comments are filled with nonsensical arguments. Will stopping people from having beards, arabic names and wearing burgas stop the people from extremism and terrorism or educating them and providing them with jobs solve the issue. Such moves do more damage than good. Everyone has liberty to follow his values as long as he does not impose them on others.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    May 9, 2015 - 3:05PM

    @goggi (Lahore):
    He is a dictator – how about returning back to dictatorship as well?Recommend

  • Someone
    May 9, 2015 - 3:26PM

    Indians with fake names should keep all their grand ideas within the territory of their God-forsaken land ruled by BJP extremists, known as India. If you have a problem with Islamism, start within your own homeland and ban the ancient outdated ideology called Hindu fundamentalism which is creeping into every facet of Indian society. Soon, such extremists there will force minorities to give up their religion and adopt the illogical stone age era customs of Vedics. Recommend

  • shahid Kinnare
    May 9, 2015 - 6:26PM

    @WB nothing wrong with keep name Ram if we can keep Arabic Jews name why name from our own culture. where in Islam it say that you have to have Arabic name. Many Chinese muslim have Chinese name. Recommend

  • Jason
    May 9, 2015 - 9:03PM

    @Salman – SK

    Wake up man!!!

    Tajikistan is not a communist country. What this move has to do with communism?
    Stop whining and raise your voice against your own brethren who slaughter the (minority) citizens of your own country and walk your streets like heroes. Recommend

  • devindersingh
    May 9, 2015 - 10:36PM

    This is a very good idea Recommend

  • devindersingh
    May 9, 2015 - 10:39PM

    @shahid Kinnare: thank god I found first sensible Muslim. Keep it up bro.culture is route to glory or peace. This is a culture of sub continentRecommend

  • abul Khan
    May 10, 2015 - 12:12AM

    To start with let us change our ” Allah Hafiz” to ” Khuda Hafiz” in Pakistan. Le us stop pretending that we are Arabs. We have centuries of culture, literature which we disown. There is no need to become Hindus but we can become Sufis which is our invention.Recommend

  • Yasin
    May 10, 2015 - 1:23AM

    Sensible move. Religion and culture are two different things.Recommend

  • Javed
    May 10, 2015 - 1:54AM

    No country in the world used imported names. Check any Malaysian , Indonesian and Iranian names. Sub-continent Muslims prefer to name their children as Mahmud rather than Prithivi. Recommend

  • Hella
    May 10, 2015 - 2:01AM

    Only sub-continent Muslims keep Arabic names. Nobody keeps Arabic names in Turkey, Iran, Central Asian countries, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei etc.Recommend

  • Salman - SK
    May 10, 2015 - 7:08AM

    @Jason: My comment went over your head. Tajikstan is a former Soviet Communist Republic. I criticized suppression of religious freedom and also included countries where suppression takes place in the name of religion, and that includes groups in my own part of the world that kill in the name of religion, and the victims overwhelmingly are Muslims themselves. I wonder how much you have spoken out against killings of minorities where you are.Recommend

  • BlackHat
    May 10, 2015 - 7:56AM

    Names like, Beena, Veena, Maya, Tara seem to be heard increasingly commonly among upper class Pakistanis. These are not religious names just as Chander or Sooraj. Sukarno, Suharto, Megawati are Indian names used by Muslim Indonesians. I tend support the notion that roots are important for a healthy and steady state of mind, both individual and collective.Recommend

  • Xman
    May 10, 2015 - 8:10AM

    @Shahzad Chaudry : True, everything is borrowed, and it’s a good thing having so much diversity. However, problem arises, when ordinary Pakistanis start losing national identity, instead chose to associate themselves more with Arabs and their tribal culture than the realities of their own region, and start to spread violence indiscriminately on some borrowed ideology. That has to change. Diversity is welcome, hateful indoctrination not.Recommend

  • muslim
    May 10, 2015 - 12:13PM

    These laws are ridiculous. Beard, hijab etc has nothing to do with extremism.
    Seems Tajikistan would soon be witnessing an uprising because it is not possible for a bunch of rulers to suppress the religious majority.Recommend

  • observer
    May 10, 2015 - 11:13PM

    “These laws are ridiculous. Beard, hijab etc has nothing to do with extremism.”

    May true, but beards and hijabs have come to symbolize extremism and terrorism throughout the world. In a more fundamental way, beards and hijab are symptomatic of radical transformation of society.Recommend

  • kk
    May 10, 2015 - 11:16PM

    very gud move n i would suggest to mr president he should also shave the beards of jews also n remove the veil wore by nuns alsoRecommend

  • observer
    May 10, 2015 - 11:24PM

    @abul Khan:

    ” Le us stop pretending that we are Arabs. We have centuries of culture, literature which we disown. There is no need to become Hindus but we can become Sufis which is our invention.”

    Good points, but some corrections are due. Most Pakistanis are inheritors of not “centuries” of culture but of over 5000 years. Unless, of course, you are one of those who believe that Pakistanis came into existence only after the arrival of bin Qasim.

    Another point, Sufism was not invented by Pakistanis. The fundamental ideas of Sufism started in the middle east much before the advent of Islam through the spread of Hindu Vedantic philosophical mysticism. All of the mystic teachings if Sufism is verbatim from the Vedantic philosophy. Recommend

  • globalobserver
    May 10, 2015 - 11:50PM


    “Soon, such extremists there will force minorities to give up their religion and adopt the illogical stone age era customs of Vedics. “

    Interesting. So Islamic culture that you have been forced into by the invaders is not “illogical stone age era customs of islamics”? The rest of the rational human society thinks so.Recommend

  • Rohit
    May 10, 2015 - 11:50PM

    @Shahzad Chaudhry:
    U were indians before u became Pakistanis. Uri dentity was with d culture n traditions ur ancestors passed on to u n dat was indian too.Recommend

  • Salim
    May 11, 2015 - 12:55AM

    He is tajik dictator ruling since tajikistan came independent and now he is forcing his mind theory on people. this stupid would not be able to change hearts and minds of people and his cruelty would lead to his downfall.Recommend

  • Inner
    May 11, 2015 - 4:04PM

    I am so glad I live in Lahore, Pakistan, where I have the freedom to express myself, and learn any language I want, and adopt practices of any culture I want, as long as it does not go basic human rights or the law.

    I want to learn Arabic language, I hope my children would one day speak it as their first language. Inshallah.Recommend

  • Inner
    May 11, 2015 - 4:39PM

    @Rana Malik:

    Why would you think banning personal freedom of individual citizens would stop criminals from committing crime?

    The government wont stop there, it would start banning, whatever it wants, regardless of what the people want. It would be worse than Kim Jon Un’s North Korea.

    Perhaps, you may want to migrate to North Korea and experience such a society first hand. Don’t complain, when you get jailed for not having the hair style the state wants you to have.

    Maybe you don’t have any regard for your personal freedom, but I do.Recommend

  • Inner
    May 11, 2015 - 4:49PM


    It is up to the people what they want. It is not the government’s job to tell people what to name their babies.

    And it is up to the people, to become Muslims or not, adopt Arabic names or not, wear shalwar kamiz or pant jean, or a Japanese Kamino. Regardless, it is their personal freedom, and the Government job is to protect people’s personal freedom, not dictate it.

    It is ironic, how some people in the comment section want western ideologies, such as democracy, freedom of speech and expression, capitalism, but at the same time, they are supporting and demanding acts that go completely against such values, which makes me wonder, if such people even know what they are talking about, or what they want.

    They sound confused or mentally retarded something.Recommend

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