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Will Saudi Arabia Abandon the Munasaha Program? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The answer is certainly no; the return of a limited number of individuals who completed the Saudi government-sponsored Muasaha [Advisory Committee] rehabilitation program to the Al Qaeda organization does not signify the failure of this program, or the need for its closure, rather it signifies the need for its continued evaluation, its assessment on a regular basis, and its continuance.

What we have seen with the announcement of two men [Abu Sufyan Al Azdi Al Shahri and Abu Al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi] who had both completed the Saudi-sponsored Munasaha program, joining a new terrorist group which was announced in Yemen [Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula] is nothing more than a propaganda war aimed at attacking the Munasaha program, in order to make it seem like it failed. This is the goal of Al Qaeda and its leadership, because the rehabilitation of former Al Qaeda members or of those who were influenced by its ideology represents a knockout blow to the organization and those who want to return the media impetus to the movement, or those who are seeking to attract new members to it.

The greatest threat to the Al Qaeda organization does not come from armed conflict, but from ideological confrontation which exposes the movement and its leadership, as well as social rehabilitation, which does not shut the door on those innocent of committing acts of violence.

If we looked at the number of those who have returned to the ideology of Al Qaeda in comparison with those have integrated back into society and have started leading normal lives, then this would be an indication of the viability of the Saudi Arabian Munasaha program, and evidence for the necessity of its continuance. If the return of one or two individuals to Al Qaeda after having completed the program is a matter for concern, then there are stories which unfortunately have not been made available to the public which verify that the Munasaha program, and the method utilized in following up with the concerned individuals, is succeeding.

A well-known member of the Al Qaeda, while taking part in the Munasaha program was informed by a Saudi official in the Ministry of Interior that his father was dying. The Saudi official told him that it would be possible for him to go and visit his father on the condition that he returns at a specified time.

The Al Qaeda member answered: “Yes, I will ask a member of my family to come and escort me.”

The Saudi official said “No, escort yourself” for he did not want another to take responsibility for him. And indeed he did go and visit his father.

But the surprise came when the Al Qaeda member returned by himself after only a few hours and long before the deadline of his return, to prison! Is this a rosy picture?

Of course not, but the significance of this is that there are many stories which if published will illustrate the importance and success of the Munasaha program. It is important that those who have benefited from the program come forward, for their experience is the best practical response.

It is therefore important to understand that what Al Qaeda is doing is an attempt to show the failure of the Munasaha program, and a plan to strike at all the endeavors that confront Al Qaeda ideologically, and this [ideological] battle is one that must never end.

The most important thing today is to make adequate efforts to prevent the re-formation and proliferation of Al Qaeda. It seems- as we have previously warned- that Al Qaeda is a real threat in Yemen, both to the Yemeni interior, and to Saudi Arabia. There must be a concerted effort between the two countries [to confront this], especially with the talk that some Guantanamo detainees will be returned to their countries. And so there must be re-integration for those who have not committed crimes lest they invest in despair and join the Al Qaeda organization, while those who have committed crimes should be put on trial.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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