BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz clerics are working to prevent extremists from deluding women into joining "jihadist" movements.
The effort comes as clerics recognise the danger posed by extremists to women, who face various forms of victimisation if they go to Syria and Iraq. Several hundred Kyrgyz have joined the insurgency in those Middle Eastern countries since 2011.
The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK) is organising courses on basics of Islam for female Muslims.
Imams in all provinces have begun distributing muftiate-approved literature and offering free religious consultations to women.
The DUMK tracks all district- and province-level qaziyats (Islamic territorial units) to ensure that women are not falling for the deceptive messages of various cults and extremist movements, Kyrgyz Mufti Maksatbek haji Toktomushev said during a religious conference in Bishkek June 14.
"All qaziyats in the provinces have orders to organise short-term courses for women who want an Islamic education," he said at the conference. "Women who can't come to class can ask for literature or have a consultation."
Imams in mosques provide free lessons on Islam for all believers during the evenings and on weekends, he said.
"Clerics teach Muslims how to read and interpret the Koran and how to perform namaz [prayer] and other rituals," Toktomushev said. "I am grateful to them for their work. They serve the public in cold and in heat."
The present-day situation requires education to counteract extremism, he said.
"The years 2014-2016 were years of terrorism worldwide," he said. "We must work together to combat ignorance -- fighting terrorism and extremism and preserving our homeland."
Opportunities for women to learn
Apiza Salaidinova, a worshipper at the Jalgyz-Bak mosque in Kara-Suu District, Osh Province, expressed pleasure that the clergy responded to Muslim women's request for religious instruction.
"Few women go to the mosque because they fear unwanted male attention," she told Central Asia Online. "Letting us ask the clergy questions enables us to protect ourselves from radical ideas."
"Formerly, women couldn't obtain accurate information about Islam," she said.
The extensive literature now available to Muslim women will enable them to avoid impulsive departures for Syria and Iraq, she said.
"We'll transmit this knowledge to the younger generation," Salaidinova said.
The Osh Province qaziyat will conduct special training sessions for Muslim women who want to learn more about Sharia law, Nurgazy Ermatov, chief of that qaziyat's fatwa department, confirmed to Central Asia Online.
"We're working with the theology department at Osh State University and with civic groups to find reputable woman leaders who know religion well," he said. "It is important for girls, starting at a very early age, to receive accurate information on Islam."
Mosques will hold the training courses regularly, he said.
Equal rights a must
Under Sharia law, women have the same rights as men and have the right to conduct religious rituals, Bishkek-based religious scholar Jarkynai Amatova told Central Asia Online.
"The clergy's initiative ... to increase women's knowledge represents a good trend," she said. "Knowledge will protect our girls from radicalisation."
Islam makes the pursuit of knowledge and education the responsibility of all Muslims, including women, Amatova said.
"Only educational activity can stop extremism," she said.