Can Al Qaeda rebrand itself?

My good friend and long-time MediaShack reader has an outstanding analysis in the Abu Dhabi National on the distinction between terrorism and resistance in the Arab society.

3 critical ideas that article underscores: first, that Arab media makes sharp distinction between terrorism and resistance, the thing that directly influenced the stance Al Qaeda and Hezbollah hold in the Arab world. Secondly, Al Qaeda’s effort to “rebrand” itself as part of the resistance. Thirdly, Al Qaeda’s endeavors to posses a foothold in the Levant.

These ideas mainly expose the context in which Al Qaeda is currently functioning in. Al Qaeda expected that it would be not only part of the resistance, but actually to be the vanguard of this line against the infidels, who are occupying or trying to dominate the Muslim societies, but the problem was that Al Qaeda secluded itself from the society and started not only to evaluate it but actually to judge it and that was a very sensitive issue in the Muslim, and especially that Arab societies that are facing several social, economic and political problems, a clear example for that was in Iraq; when Abu Musab al Zarqawi diverted his efforts to “massacring Shiites and killing fellow Sunnis deemed insufficiently pious” he lost the Arabs sympathy. The important point that could be pointed out was the reason behind Al Qaeda’s failure; which was failing to situate itself as a defender of the Arabs rights, and more importantly was failing to display its operations as gains to the Arabs’ causes. Note something, the Arabs perceived what happened in 9/11 as a divinely punishment to the unjust rather than a successful hit done by Mujahedeen, yet, western media falsely displayed these sentiments as gloating to what happened. Thus the sharp distinction drawn by the Arab media came as a consequence to what the people actually believed in, and not vice versa. On the other hand, Hezbollah succeeded to situate itself as a struggler; it did not engage in any religious judgements or evaluations and focused on presenting itself as a liberation movement that is wide enough to include the whole society with all its contradiction.

The dilemma that faces Al Qaeda is that its activities seem chaotic and thus what the people understandabout it, is that it aims to destroy and eradicate all societal forms that do not conform with its blinkered vision, thus the question that some people in the Arab world pose is “What would happen to us if a group like Al Qaeda or Al Jihad seized power in the country?”, there’s a belief that adherents of this trend won’t be tolerable with their own people. they won’t even be understanding to what the pressuring economic conditions forced them to do in order to make a living. However, there’s another side to this point that these chaotic activities are re-presented within a new context that makes more sense, Al Qaeda realizes that there’s a political vacuum in the Arab world, and that there’s an increasing level of resentment toward the failed states in the  region, and as it operates devoid of any political considerations, thus it could be a mean of confronting and changing their conditions.

Al Qaeda’s attempt to “rebrand” itself might be the most important point here, that attempt is not a big challenge for Al Qaedaitselfto develop its parochial vision and to broaden its horizons, but mainly to those parties fighting it, since by achieving this step, it will acquire a huge recruiting capacity, and greater mobility, not to mention getting actually accepted, which means that it would turn to be part of the Arab social milieu. Al Qaeda knows that it is causing a confusion among the Salafis who couldn’t excommunicate its members, although they acknowledge some of the fallacies Al Qaeda fell into, and thats actually what Nathan pointed out concerning Al Awajj’s dance around a question he was asked whether Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members are “terrorists” or “fighters”?. Let’s note something here, the importance of the Jihadi revisions done by some militant groups, especially Syyaid Imams’ is that they call for adopting new approach in dealing with the current deteriorating conditions or the police-governments, since the violent approach would cause more harm to the society than it would really effect the regime. But this call was perceived, by Salafis, as a turn against the idea of Jihad that’s basically to “change” whats wrong in the society and that “change” is a religious obligation for every Muslim, the difference here is over how the change should be done? So, Al Qaeda needs to insert itself in the society as one of the partisans capable of changing, then enhancing its position becoming the leader of this change.

The most important defiant facing Al Qaeda now is Hezbollah. Al Qaeda did not operate in the Levant because it never had the haven nor the welcoming environment, no doubt that security was the foremost success the “failed” states achieved. Consequently, eradicating Hezbollah is not merely a political gain, but more importantly it would be a strategic gain. Al Qaeda is aware that there is no party that could fill Hezbollah’s place as fast and efficiently as Al Qaeda could do. The problem in this regard is that many players in the region are pestered with Hezbollah’s stance; therefore, some of these parties might -indirectly-  help Al Qaeda in bringing down Hezbollah. however, this point remains a bit questionable.

This is a higly recommended article that relies basically on Arabic references, I encourage all those interested in understanding the environment surrounding Al Qaeda and the possible scenarios for its actions to read this piece  carefully.