Monday, April 02, 2007

Jihad Rehab

In Saudi Arabia it's serious business:

"When I was going to Afghanistan, I was going to help the Muslims around the world," says Abu Suleiman, the first of the reformed extremists to speak to western media. "When you are young - I was only 20 - you have no responsibility. You think you can help and so you go."

....First he travelled to the Philippines, where he joined Islamist guerrillas in the southern islands. Then, in 1997, he ventured to Afghanistan for military training in an al-Qa'eda camp. He went back there before September 11 attacks - only to be captured near Tora Bora.

Each of those on the Saudi rehabilitation course once stood accused of involvement in domestic or international terrorism, usually linked to al-Qa'eda. Abu Suleiman's own rehabilitation included talks with religious scholars about Muslim doctrine. The Koran, they pointed out, prohibited the killing of citizens regardless of their religion.

In addition, psychologists helped him overcome the trauma inflicted by his time as a "jihadist" and by his four years in Guantanamo.

Finally, last year, the authorities gave him his freedom, a job and a car. And when he married last month, a representative of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the minister who began the programme, attended the ceremony.

"I don't like thinking about what happened in the past. It was destroying my life," says Abu Suleiman.

....Abu Suleiman met bin Laden several times and remembers his leadership with bitter disillusion. Bin Laden, he says, fled Tora Bora, leaving his followers at the mercy of American bombs.

....Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to London and Washington, is one of many hailing the rehabilitation project's contribution as a "major success".

"We believe the struggle is one of mind over matter," he says. "It's a struggle of ideas."

Too bad Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi don't understand that.

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