The Arabic word Ansar translates as “helpers,” and also refers to those who aided Muhammad in Medina. The choice of the new name underscores the fact that the fundamental aim of all jihad is the imposition of Sharia, the various excuses du jour notwithstanding.
Besides, all the cool al-Qaeda affiliates are doing it. Al-Shabaab has been working on a new identity as “The Islamic Authority.” “Al Qaeda Rebranding Itself to Improve Image, Arab Diplomat Says,” from Fox News, December 14 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is rebranding itself to try to lose the negative “baggage” associated with the larger terror organization’s identity, according to a senior Arab diplomat who says the Yemeni-based group is trying to attract more foreign fighters to its cause.
AQAP is increasingly going by the name “Ansar al Sharia,” which means Army of Islamic Law, the diplomat told Fox News.
The literal translation is not “army,” though one also sees “supporters” or “partisans.”
“After (Usama) bin Laden’s death and the Arab Spring, the name (al Qaeda) seems to have negative connotations and baggage,” said the diplomat, who would discuss the changes only on condition of anonymity.
The name swap was likened to a similar evolution experienced by al Qaeda in Iraq’s military and political wings. The rebranding of AQAP is seen as an effort to create “a big tent” to attract foreign jihadists and give it a greater air of legitimacy as a political movement.
Since al Qaeda leader bin Laden’s death in May at the hand of U.S. Navy SEALs, the number of foreign fighters traveling to Pakistan has dropped, but the number heading to Yemen is on an upswing.
A senior Yemeni official with access to the intelligence said the number of foreign fighters in Yemen now exceeds 1,000. If accurate, that is more than four times the number of al Qaeda members believed to be in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Combined with the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, which Kenyan officials is now the base for upwards of 750 foreign fighters now in training, the horn of Africa — and by extension Yemen — are now the central threat hubs.
Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, director of homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Fox News that “moving away from the larger al Qaeda brand is something I think we’re starting to see more of.”…