BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz security specialists and theologians are grappling with their country's security situation.
The effort comes as the government concedes that about 600 citizens are fighting in Syria alongside militants.
About 30 journalists and about 12 specialists and theologians November 3 in Bishkek attended a roundtable called "Kyrgyzstan's the National Security: the Real Situation, without Any Shades of Gray" to mull such issues.
The primary topic was the extent of the country's national security system's readiness to combat international terrorism and extremism.
A major threat
Terrorism poses a major threat to Kyrgyzstan, including the threat of the government's ouster, Dasmir Uzbekov, former first deputy chairman of the State National Security Committee (GKNB), said at the event.
"The national security system is under threat," he said. "It is very important to convey to the public ... the essence of Islam and how it differs from terrorism."
"Wide-scale religious education" is the key, he said.
The terrorist threat to Kyrgyzstan is not directly related to the quality of work of Kyrgyz intelligence services, Amir Saliyev, a scholar at the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Prognosis at the Bishkek-based Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, told Caravanserai.
Stressing education's value
Like Uzbekov, Saliyev called for religious education as a weapon against extremism and terrorism.
Kyrgyzstan can battle international terrorism if it unites all parts of society, Artur Medetbekov, chairman of the Bishkek-based NGO Anti-Terror and another former deputy chairman of the GKNB, told Caravanserai.
Fighting international terrorism should be a task "nationwide in scope", not just for law enforcement, he said.
The 600 or so Kyrgyz fighting in Syria threaten national security, he said.
"We shouldn't fear them going to Syria as much as we should fear them coming back," he said. "They influence Kyrgyz living here, and that affects the national security system."
"ISIL [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'] will most likely be kicked out ... of Syria and Iraq," Marat Imankulov, a former secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, said at the conference. "Where will they go? They will rush into Central Asia."
"All citizens must help ensure security," Medetbekov said. "There should be no panic."
In the past seven years, the number of terrorist organisations prohibited in Kyrgyzstan has grown from 9 to 19, Medetbekov said.
Authorities also worry that inflammatory teachings could be affecting Kyrgyz in some of the country's 2,600 mosques and 300 madrassas, Medetbekov said.
Kyrgyz security agencies are trying their best in a challenging situation, former foreign minister Alibek Jekshenkulov told Caravanserai.
"No country can effectively fight this global scourge alone," he said. "Militants [returning from Syria] ... will bring special danger not only to Kyrgyzstan but also to all of Central Asia. These circumstances ... make us understand the need to strengthen national security.”