Former Terrorists: Rehabilitation or Re-indoctrination
By Ali Alyami
The highly praised Saudi rehabilitation program for ex-prisoners and captured terrorists can be classified as re-programming, as opposed to deprogramming. Whether they are ex-Guantanamo prisoners or captured in Saudi Arabia, the deviants, as Saudi officials label them, are placed in lush villas and provided with a luxurious lifestyle that the majority of Saudis can only dream of having. After a few days of rest and relaxation, they must complete the government’s intense religious re-training instead of abandoning their violent inclinations and actions. The captured terrorists and religious extremists are instructed to fast certain days of the week, pray frequently and re-memorize the Quran. Not surprisingly, the trainers are the same religious clerics who originally indoctrinated terrorists in schools, mosques and summer camps.
Given the nature of the rehabilitative program, some of the terrorists return to their old profession as soon as they leave the villas. Othman Ahmed Al-Ghamdi was a prisoner in Guantanamo for four years and a participant in the rehabilitation program but returned to Al-Qaeda after his release in 2006. Today, he is on a list of the “85 most wanted people by Saudi Arabia.” As seen in Al-Ghamdi’s case, the rehabilitation program does not emphasize the complete avoidance of violence. During their re-education, the ex-terrorists are instructed not to commit crimes against their rulers and countrymen. Instead they are told that it is their duty to defend Islam against its sworn enemies, the infidels. As an ally of the Saudi government, the U.S. ought to investigate the Saudi rehabilitation program and evaluate it for what it is, as opposed to taking Saudi word for it and advice from people, including American witnesses, who lack deep understanding of Saudi religious and cultural backgrounds and methods of operation.