Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Saudis Try To De-Guantanamoize Their Citizens

Guantanamo, the supposed home of the worst of the worst, is largely populated by people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time as discussed here, and here, and here, But how are these people being de-Guantanomoized when they get home? How is their hatred being quieted and the bleeding agony of their experience being staunched? The Saudis may have an answer. As reported by McClatchy they are re-educated and shown a better way of life.

To keep the former detainees from deep-pocketed militant recruiters, Saudi officials have treated them to perks that have included new cars, resort stays, job placement and help in finding brides. They've also exposed them to moderate clerics and reminded them of Islam's restrictive rules for waging holy war, or jihad.

Saudi officials said the goal is to stop the proliferation of radical ideology that they said is bred in prisons and on the Internet. The ideology has flourished at Guantanamo and is evident among the returning Saudi detainees - even those who were moderates before they were imprisoned, Saudi officials said.

Heaven knows the Saudi society is one of the most closed and restricted in the world. Their tolerance for Wahibism has not done the world any favors. And the monarchy may be hanging on by a thread. But on this, they seem to be getting it right.

The multimillion-dollar rehabilitation program is available to most Saudis who've been accused of terrorism-related crimes, and officials estimate that as many as 2,000 have participated in the program since its inception in 2004.

The program pays special attention to those released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nearly every Saudi returning from American captivity undergoes up to 10 weeks of intense psychological tests, starting with an evaluation on the private plane that whisks him home from the American prison, Turki said.

Only 60-65 of that 2,000 have been Guantanamo prisoners. But it should be remembered that we have released approximately 390 prisoners from guantanamo and continue to hold about 390 more. How many of those fit this profile

Abu Suleiman said that when he was 20 years old and impressionable, he was recruited into a militant cell in the Philippines. With dreams of fighting alongside Chechen rebels, he received training in Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden "a few times" and where he was captured in late 2001 by U.S.-led forces in the mountains of Tora Bora.

In his four years at Guantanamo, one of them in isolation, Abu Suleiman said, he underwent severe U.S. interrogations "from the first day to the last day." When he was finally released last year, he expected even harsher treatment from the Saudi prison system.

. . . .

I was shocked by the good treatment," Abu Suleiman said. "They make it easy for me to forget what happened in Guantanamo."

All is not well in Saudi Arabia. They are in fact reaping the harvest of seeds they have sown over many years and, to a certain extent, continue to sow. And the fruits of their labors are present today. Their anti-terrorism counsellors have some big problems to overcome, as explained in the article.

That's why the program enlists counselors such as Sheik Mohamed al Nejeimi. He's one of 100 state-backed clerics who counter radical teachings with moderate passages from the Quran, Islam's holy book. The detainees pepper Nejeimi with easy questions such as when jihad is valid or how to fight tyranny within the framework of Islam.

But he said there's one frequently asked question that always stumps him: "Why did you let us go to Afghanistan to fight the Russians then, but won't let us go there now to fight the Americans in similar conditions?" The government's reply is that jihad should be in the interest of one's homeland. Fighting the secular Soviets in the 1980s was permissible; fighting Kabul's Muslim-led government today is not.

But regardless of the past, they understand something that seems to elude our government. This is a conflict of ideas. Sure you go after the really bad guys. But you don't create hatred in the process. We can only win this if we convince people of the rightness of our ways. They don't have to agree with our beliefs. But they need to understand we are just and mean them no ill will.

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