RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Young men spray hoses in a car-washing contest and play pool. Children make paper crowns in an art class, while their parents have a picnic. Alongside the fun and games, Muslim clerics answer questions about jihad or give lectures about the proper dress for women.
This is Islamic summer camp, and it's part of Saudi Arabia's campaign to eliminate al-Qaida.
Saudi Arabia says it's waging a "war of minds" against extremist ideology, alongside the fierce security crackdown that has killed or arrested many al-Qaida leaders over the past six years. To do so, the kingdom plans to expand a broad public campaign aimed at preventing young people from being drawn to radicalism.
"We are working on the men of the future," Abdulrahman Alhadlaq, general director of the Interior Ministry's Ideological Security Directorate, told The Associated Press.
Islamic summer camps are a key part of the program, attended by thousands of families who consult with government-backed clerics instilling what Saudi authorities call a moderate message.
The teachings at the camps are still ultraconservative, in line with the kingdom's strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam - but the clerics drill the message that youth should turn to approved religious authorities for guidance, not radical preachers. For example, on the issue of jihad, or holy war, they teach that it can only be waged on the orders of the head of state.
"It is ... essentially about obedience, loyalty and recognition of authority," said Christopher Boucek, an associate at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has studied the camp programs. "That is what is stressed over and over again in these programs: Loyalty to the state and recognition that there are certain correct and qualified sources to follow."
Boucek said it will take a long time to evaluate the programs' effectiveness. "In many ways, these are generational projects," he said.