In a letter recovered by the SEALs during the raid that killed the terrorist leader, bin Laden said he was contemplating rebranding and remarketing al-Qaida in hopes of improving its badly tarnished public image.
This was not the first time that al-Qaida’s murderous ways had caused public relations problems.
In 2005, bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who now heads the organization, wrote to the head of al-Qaida’s Iraq chapter telling him that the taped footage of the slaughter of Muslim hostages, the killing of Shiites and the bombing of their mosques was not going down well with the Islamic public.
In the letter, shown to the Associated Press, bin Laden did what many troubled companies in need of a quick image fix do: He settled on a name change.
The problem was, he wrote, that “al-Qaida” was shorthand for the group’s real name, Al-Qaida al-Jihad. The omission of “al-Jihad” in the popular vernacular deprived the group of its religious association and, bin Laden said, allows the West to “claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam.”
Some of the alternatives, AP said, included the names Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, the “Monotheism and Jihad Group,” or Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, “Restoration of the Caliphate Group.”
Here bin Laden showed his ignorance of how the media works. The world’s headline writers and the TV writers who do the superimposed words and crawls that appear onscreen would only have compressed the names to the “Taifats” or the “Khilafats.”
If al-Qaida really wants to improve it’s standing among Muslims, the solution is simple: Stop killing them.