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”.
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.
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