Friday, October 19, 2007

Terrorist Demand - Send me to the Care Rehabilitation Center in Riyadh, and hold my spot at the pool

saudi detetnion center.jpg

Call it the anti-Guantánamo. Young Saudis are captured in Iraq waging jihad against the American infidels. But instead of being shipped off to a bleak detention camp in Cuba, they are dispatched to a cozy chalet an hour outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Technically it's a detention center, but no one is forced to wear an orange jumpsuit or a blindfold. And far from being condemned to solitary confinement, its occupants are free to roam the landscaped courtyard and play Ping-Pong, volleyball and video games.

Next time I slit someone's throat, remind to shout Allahu Akbar and wear my dishdasha ...

Welcome to the Care Rehabilitation Center, part of a three-year-old experiment to reform malleable minds who have fallen under the sway of Osama bin Laden's radical brand of Islam. To get here, jihadis have to demonstrate during a prison interview a readiness to rethink their extremist views. (About 20% of the 1,875 holy warriors invited to participate have refused.) The program, developed by a team of Islamic scholars, psychiatrists and sociologists, tries to convince these men of their mistakes and make them productive members of Saudi society, which has been rocked by terrorism: al-Qaeda attacks have killed 144 people there over the past four years. By not treating the detainees as criminals, the center seeks to avoid reinforcing their radicalism and turning them into role models for more jihadis.

Hey, maybe it's a 12 step program ..and they have to ask forgiveness from Deborah Burlingame

Although the perimeter is guarded by police, the facility feels like a country club or college campus. Detainees have lots of downtime and soda pop. They spend their days in vocational training, psychological counseling and classroom lectures, most of which are given by religious scholars from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, including the center's director, Sheik Ahmed Hamid Jelan. He walks the detainees through religious texts on jihad--a theological minefield, considering that while the Saudi government forbids fighting in Iraq, it once recruited young Saudis like bin Laden to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. The basic difference, Jelan explains to his charges, is that fighting the Soviets served the interests of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world, while struggling against the U.S. in Iraq does not. "We answer all the questions about al-Qaeda concepts by referring to the Koran and the message of Islam," says Jelan. "We have dialogue. They become convinced."

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