What should al Qaeda’s new name be?

The AP reports that in the last days of his life, Osama bin Laden considered changing the name of al Qaeda to something more religious — and with fewer connotations of slaughter and wanton destruction and all that: The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The AP reports that in the last days of his life, Osama bin Laden considered changing the name of al Qaeda to something more religious -- and with fewer connotations of slaughter and wanton destruction and all that:

The AP reports that in the last days of his life, Osama bin Laden considered changing the name of al Qaeda to something more religious — and with fewer connotations of slaughter and wanton destruction and all that:

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group’s full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word "jihad," bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam." Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

Spencer Ackerman’s readers are already on the case with such highly-serious suggestions as "72 Virgins Airways," the "League of Extraordinary Beards," and " Why hide it any more? Inter-Services Intelligence."

My colleague Charles Homans suggests on Twitter, "I feel like al Qaeda should go with an Executive Outcomes-style new name, something like "Global Islamic Solutions" or "The AQ Group."Journalist Chris Albon is fond of "Center For New Islamic Security." Several have suggested that "Blackwater" is now available.

Successful rebranding is tough. Altria has never really caught on for the company formerly known as Phillip Morris. Even the president still calls it "British Petroleum."And Overseas Contingency Operation? Give me a break.

The only people who ever seem to be able to pull this off successfully are professional athletes. Today’s other big rebranding story is that Lakers Foward and famously unpeaceful individual Ron Artest is following in the footsteps of Chad Ochocinco and changing his name to Metta World Peace. I humbly suggest to Ayman al-Zawahiri that he consider changing the name of al Qaeda to "Ron Artest."

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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