Osama Bin Laden was so worried about Al Qaeda’s image that he proposed changing the group’s name to try improve its “brand,” a US official said.
In a letter found at his Pakistani compound, the late Al Qaeda mastermind contemplated new names for his terror network that he hoped would better reflect his vision of a holy war with the West, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
“It was sort of like brand-imaging,” the official said.
Bin Laden’s proposals for alternative names were not exactly dynamic.
He suggested possibly Taifat Al Tawhed Wal Jihad, or Monotheism and Jihad Group, and Jama’at I’Adat Al Khilafat Al Rashida, translated as Restoration of the Caliphate Group, the official said.
News of the letter, which was first reported by the Associated Press, quickly sparked a flurry of online parodies, including satiric contests to select Al Qaeda’s new name.
Among the names floated: “Beards,” “iQaeda” and “Kandahar Ardent Brotherhood Of Orthodox Muslims (KABOOM).”
Danger Room proposed a new slogan: “Now With 20 Percent Less Eschatological Violence.”
Bin Laden debated the name change because he was unhappy that the original name of his group – Al Qaeda Al Jihad, or The Base of Holy War -- had been widely referred to only as Al Qaeda, dropping the reference to religious war, the US official said.
“His concern was that the Al Jihad part was dropped and it was short-handed to just Al Qaeda,” the official said.
“From his perspective, that sort of separated the religious aspect of Al Qaeda’s mission. And that allowed the West to portray it as an organization and not tied to a ...religious movement,” he said.
Bin Laden, who was killed in a raid by US Navy Special Forces last month, comes across in the letter as a leader struggling to get the upper hand in the “information war” against the United States, the official said.
“What he was being frustrated by was that most people were seeing the fight against Al Qaeda for what it really is -- it’s an effort stop a violent organization not a war on religion,” he said.
“That bothered him.”
It was not clear who the letter was addressed to or whether or not it was delivered, but the document appeared to be written in the last couple of years “based on the context of it,” according to the official.
In other letters, Bin Laden also wrote to his then number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri, to voice his concern that attacks that had left Muslims dead -- especially in Iraq -- had harmed Al Qaeda’s image, the official said.