[The name of the river "Aiyi" has been changed to "Diannong" by the autonomous government of Ningxia, home to the mainland's largest number of Muslims. (Photo: AFP)]
Beijing: Authorities in China have renamed a river just because it had sounded like "Aisha" - one of the wives of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). The move is seen as yet another attempt by China to reduce Islamic influence in the country, local media reported Tuesday.
The name of the river "Aiyi" has been changed to "Diannong" by the autonomous government of Ningxia, home to the mainland's largest number of Muslims, a report by the Global Times said.
"'Aiyi', the old Chinese name for the river, sounds to some people like the Arabic name 'Aisha'," Wang Genming, a researcher at the Ningxia University Institute of Hui Studies told the Chinese daily.
The river's new name "Diannong" derives from the old Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) name for Ningxia's capital city, currently named Yinchuan, according to the Global Times.
"We received a request from the local water resources department based on a regulation on the names of public locations," the government said in a statement.
A regulation passed by the Ningxia government in 2013 banned local authorities from naming public locations after foreign figures or places.
"This conforms to China's policy of Sinicising religions and adapting them to socialist society as well as fitting with local history and culture," Xiong Kunxin, professor of ethnic studies at Beijing's Minzu University of China, told the Global Times.
Shen Guiping, an expert on religions at the Central Institute of Socialism, told the Chinese daily that as the mother river of the region, "Diannong can better deliver the spirit of traditional Chinese culture".
The river spans 180km and six counties in northwestern China.
China in the past few months has been in the news for detention camps where thousands of Muslims have been detained without any crime. Only in the last week, Amnesty International had asked the Chinese authorities to come clean on these detention centres.
About a month ago, the authorities had decided to demolish the minarets of an ancient mosque so that it is devoid of Muslim culture. The decision was revoked after a massive protest. There were also reports that China had banned Muslims from naming their children Arabic names.
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