Saudi Shura member spots 'need' to revise terrorist rehab program

One of the challenges facing officials who run the program is the return of some of the released inmates to terrorist organizations

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The terrorist rehabilitation programs run by Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Center for Advice and Care needs to be revised and reevaluated now that it has been in place for ten years, according to Latifah al-Shalan, member of the Shoura Council, al-Watan daily reported.

Only 10 percent of rehabilitated inmates return to terrorist activities after their release from the center, according to reports.

“These reports do not change the fact that the center has produced very positive results since its inception in 2004,” al-Shalan said during the Council’s session on the great achievements accomplished by the Ministry of Interior in fighting terrorism.

She said the Council’s committees and some of its members are capable of contributing to a comprehensive plan to further develop the program.

Al-Shalan presented an initial road map for developing the project and called on authorities to use the help of psychologists and sociologists and give them a more effective role in rehabilitating individuals with deviant thoughts. She believes the roles currently assigned to these experts are insufficient.

“Any program that has been in place for ten years should be revised comprehensively, especially if it bears security, political, and social significance,” she said.

One of the challenges facing officials who run the program is the return of some of the released inmates to terrorist organizations. Scholars play an important role in rehabilitating and helping extremists change their ideas about issues like jihad, loyalty, allegiance, non-Muslims in the Kingdom, etc. “More should be done to prevent released inmates from returning to terrorism. The status quo might increase the number of such inmates,” al-Shalan noted.

According to al-Shalan, this is where the role of counselors and psychologists comes into play. Contemporary Western studies have shown that terrorist thinking and behavior, whether driven by religion or other factors, needs to be analyzed and rebuilt based on well-known psychological strategies that are drastically different from the methods adopted by scholars at the center.

Psychological strategies focus on instilling the modern human definitions of homeland, citizenship, society, and minority in inmates’ minds in order to change the way they think, she said. “I’m sure these strategies will shake the deep-rooted concepts terrorists hold and curtail the number of relapsed cases. They’re better than giving lectures and holding dialogue with inmates as these can only make minor changes to such concepts,” she stressed.

Sociologists can help in this mission by studying the family background and social setting of terrorists and try to find out more about the circumstances that led them to turn to terrorism. The results of their studies can be used in programs that seek to prevent the emergence of such individuals in society.

“The real important role of sociologists will come after the release of inmates from the center. Sociologists will keep a close eye on the inmates; who they socialize with, and what challenges they meet. They will help inmates resist the calls for rejoining terrorist groups,” she said.

This is the first time a recommendation of this type has been put forth in the Shoura Council. Al-Shalan supported the recommendation by the fact that 47 of the 77 individuals who participated in terrorist activities that took place in al-Ahsa a few weeks ago, were former inmates of the center.

This story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 16, 2014.

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