TALAS, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz clergy nationwide are actively helping explain to locals the dangers of radical ideas.
The government has been working to defuse radicalism's appeal, while admitting that hundreds of extremist Kyrgyz have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the militants.
Clerics October 12 in Kara-Buura District, Talas Province, discussed ways to improve the religious situation at a roundtable called "Islam Is a Religion of Peace." The district government organised the roundtable.
"Islam has nothing to do with extremism and terrorism," Taalaibek haji Bapiyev, qazi (Islamic judge) of Talas Province, told the participants, urging Muslims to steer away from radical ideas.
"It is important to ... obtain information from reliable sources, including the holy book of Muslims, as well as the literature approved by the muftiate of our country," he said.
Curiosity is encouraged
No mosque-goer should hesitate to express his or her concerns about difficult-to-understand issues, Bapiyev said in his presentation.
"Enemies of the religion of peace hide under the banner of Islam," Bapiyev warned. "They deliberately persuade poorly educated Muslims to join their so-called 'jihad' ... and by doing so wreak havoc."
In his own speech, Talas provincial deputy qazi Meder haji Sagynbayev advised participants to work closely with youth leaders and women's councils on whom the next generation's fate might depend.
"Islam means 'peace' and brings virtue and tranquillity," he said. "Our religion wishes only peace and a better fate in this fleeting world to every family, every home and all of humanity."
"Every Muslim must cherish his [or her] motherland and ... must not succumb to the deceitful blandishments of [extremist] recruiters," Sagynbayev added.
The Talas clergy play a key role in fighting extremism and protecting youth from the influence of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), Chinara Seyitkaziyeva, a high-school teacher from Talas, told Caravanserai.
"Mosque employees, theologians and representatives of the police's 10th Administration [the counter-terrorism wing] always come to the school once a week," she said. "They explain to our pupils how to avoid recruiters. Every schoolchild has internet access and faces the risk of being hoodwinked by extremists."
It is essential to hold children's interest by staging contests and quizzes about Islam, she said, adding that such measures would help them retain the teachings of imams and religious scholars.
Parents of high-school students should not rely on the school or the clergy to do all the work of protecting the children, she said, adding they have the responsibility of talking to their children about actions that could land them in jail or worse.
Police are busy
Kyrgyz authorities have fought extremism all year and recognise the dimensions of the challenge.
"The Interior Ministry [MVD] registered 4,154 members of extremist groups during the first nine months of year," Baktybek Abdyrakhmanov, an MVD employee, told Caravanserai.
During this period nationwide, to prevent inter-faith strife, the authorities organised 3,913 lectures, seminars, roundtables and meetings with the public that focused on youth, he said.
The events are meant to "fight extremism and terrorism and to prevent local residents from going to Syria", Abdyrakhmanov said.
The meetings always have the same complement of instructors, he said: theologians, other religious scholars, officials from the counter-terrorism-focused MVD 10th Administration, local government officials and clerics.
However, the authorities need to find other ways of fighting extremism and terrorism, not just the familiar preventive measures like those meetings with officials and clergy, Gulzina Mamaniyazova, a spokeswoman from the Bishkek-based NGO Adilet Koomu (Just Society), told Caravanserai.
"Law enforcement and security agencies need ideas and ways to help youth," she said. "[If they provide such], youth will realise that even one misstep can ruin their lives. Social networks and the internet remain dangerous traps."
The children of migrant-worker parents are especially vulnerable, she said, noting that such children stay with grandparents and can fall into extremist recruiters' clutches if they look for authority figures.