The increasing use of unconventional, “soft” measures to combat violent extremism in Saudi Arabia is bearing positive results, leading others in the region, including the United States in Iraq, to adopt a similar approach. Understanding the successes of the Saudi strategy—composed of prevention, rehabilitation, and aftercare programs

Key components of the Saudi strategy:

  • Prevention

Saudi Arabia has employed hundreds of government programs to educate the public about radical Islam and extremism, as well as provide alternatives to radicalization among young men. Projects from athletic competitions, to lectures, writing contests, and public information campaigns have all had a significant impact on Saudi public perceptions of terrorism.

  • Rehabilitation

The centerpiece of the rehabilitation strategy is a comprehensive counseling program designed to re-educate violent extremists and sympathizers and to encourage extremists to renounce terrorist ideologies. Members of the Ministry of Interior’s “Advisory Committee” frequently meet with detainees or draw from a large number of religious scholars to counsel prisoners to counter “corrupted understandings” and “misinterpretations of correct doctrine.” In many cases, Saudi Arabia encourages family participation in the rehabilitation process, even providing alternative income for families whose sole breadwinner has been imprisoned.

  • Aftercare programs

The Ministry of Interior employs several initiatives to ensure that counseling and rehabilitation continue after release from state custody, including a halfway house program to ease release into society and programs to reintegrate returnees from Guantanamo Bay.  Through educational training, continued religious and psychological counseling, and extensive social network support, the program works to help detainees past the period in their lives when militant activity is most appealing.

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