Where some would likely toss extremists in a jail cell, Saudi Arabia instead offers a rehab center with a swimming pool and art therapy to fight extremist ideologies.
Enter Riyadh’s Mohammed bin Nayef Counselling Center and Care Center, essentially a five-star resort managed by clerics and psychologists.
“Our focus is on correcting their thoughts, their misconceptions, their deviation from Islam,” Yahya Abu Maghayed, a director at the center, told AFP during an exclusive tour of the facility. “We make the ‘beneficiaries’ feel they are normal people and still have a chance — a chance to return to society.”
According to Maghayed, part of the “ideological cure” that residents partake in involve the center from refraining from ever using the terms prisoners or inmates as it could have a negative impact.
Rather than making residents feel forced to do something, officials instead push for those in treatment to increase familial bonds — a psychological tactic that works to make it more difficult for offenders to return to their old ways, the outlet reported.
“You cannot counter terrorism by force,” Ali al-Afnan, an educational psychology specialist at the center, told AFP. “Only ideas can fight ideas.”
Founded in 2004, the rehab center claims to have treated more than 3,300 men convicted of terrorism-related crimes. Of its participants, officials have seen a “success rate of 86 percent,” says Maghayed. The remaining 14 percent, he added only showed “deviant behavior” while a few others relapsed back into the militant world.
Residents who refuse to change their ways after spending three months at the facility are returned to “the judicial process,” Maghayed said.
And yet, though the center touts its positive rates, not everyone agrees.
Per John Hogan, a psychologist and expert hailing from Georgia State University, the 14 percent is not exactly accurate, in fact, the numbers are likely much higher.
“Saudis are to be applauded for trying something different — they were one of the first to try a ‘talking cure’ for terrorists,” Hagan told AFP. “[But] without greater transparency about its participants… it’s impossible to know what value added, if any, this programme brings in reducing the threat of re-engagement in terrorism.”
Ironically enough, while extremists sit in luxury seven people were executed Tuesday following guilty verdicts on charges of murder, robbery and drug smuggling. In total, the Kingdom has executed 137 people so far in 2017.