DUSHANBE -- The president of Tajikistan has asked parents of students attending religious schools abroad to bring their children back home, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Emomali Rahmon made the call via state-run Tajik TV's First Channel during a meeting on August 25 with residents of Farkhor district in the southern province of Khatlon, which borders Afghanistan.
The president requested that students go to study religion within Tajikistan instead, because those studying abroad "are all becoming terrorists and extremists."
He added that there were functioning government religious schools and that it would be better that students study in these schools or be sent abroad, as long as they have the permission and regulation of the Committee for Religious Affairs.
Rahmon's comments come as authorities continue to hunt for 25 Islamic militants who staged a brazen prison breakout in Dushanbe on August 23.
Officially, some 2,000 Tajiks are currently studying at religious schools in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan, though the actual number is thought to be higher.
Abdulloh Rahnamo, a theologian with the Strategic Analytical Center at the office of the president, says that he agrees with the president's request and that it is the ideas of graduates from foreign religious schools and madrasahs that bring about religious and security problems.
"Unfortunately, experience shows that -- along with the science of religion -- concepts, ideology or political or religious views also develop," Rahnamo says. "We cannot condemn any of these beliefs, thoughts, or schools of thought or political rule, however, the social environment of Tajikistan is of one religion and therefore the wanted or unwanted entrance of a non-Hanafi religion into this environment will cause a dispute."
He adds, however, that the level of religious teaching within Tajikistan is not equal to that of foreign schools.
But independent expert Mahmud Latifi says that the attendance of Tajik students at foreign religious schools is not a problem if they are under the supervision of diplomatic representatives of Tajikistan.
He said that in all foreign countries, including Western countries, there are foreign ideas and that if Tajik students are taught to be patriotic and know themselves they will not adopt radical foreign ideas.
Tajikistan keeps a tight rein on all forms of religion, and has banned at least two religious groups that are not of the Hanafi branch of Sunni Islam -- the Salafi and Jamoai Tabligh movements.