Having a last name that sounds like al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's first name has never been a political plus for Barack Obama. Could it now be a burden for al-Qaida, too?
It was a lot easier for the Islamist terror organization to frame the United States as a racist, anti-Muslim "crusader" nation before we elected a biracial American named Barack Hussein Obama to be our president.
That would help to explain why al-Qaida's first official response to Obama's election features Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group's No. 2 leader, denouncing Obama in a web video as a "house slave," or abeed al-beit in Arabic. An English subtitle provided by al-Qaida's propaganda arm translates as "house Negro."
Al-Zawahiri compares Obama to Malcolm X, the assassinated black American Muslim leader who made the plantation reference to "house slaves" and "house Negroes" famous in the early 1960s to describe blacks who played along with white supremacy.
"You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X," Zawahiri said, citing Malcolm's Arabic and English names.
Zawahiri said Obama, Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "confirmed" Malcolm X's definition of a "house Negro," a term the militant black leader used to describe blacks who were subservient to whites.
"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."
To which I, as an African American, respond in a cleaned-up version of an old black community phrase "Negro, please!"
It's a little too glib for al-Qaida's No. 2 man to honor Malcolm, an American, 43 years after his assassination when he is unable to speak for himself.
As a long-time student of his speeches and ghostwritten autobiography, I don't think he would appreciate being exploited by fugitive jihadi terrorists any more than he'd want his face on Ku Klux Klan bedsheets.
Such irony. Just as Obama has made it cool to play by the rules and challenge the system at its own game and win! along comes Zawahiri to challenge his Negritude.
I might be a tad bit more impressed with Zawahiri's indignation had I heard him similarly denounce the traffic in black African slaves that Arabs continue to conduct the Sudan and the Persian Gulf states.
With most of the world, including much of the Arab and Islamic world, enthralled with Obama's election victory, it's no surprise that al-Qaida feels compelled to assert itself back into world headlines. But their show is getting old, lame and increasingly irrelevant, even in the highly competitive Islamist terrorist world.
In short, killing thousands of Arabs and Muslims has not endeared al-Qaida to Arabs and Muslims. In Iraq, for example, al-Qaida's attempts to take control of the Sunni insurgency backfired. Most of the rank-and-file insurgents actually have turned to make common cause with the American occupiers rather than put up with al-Qaida's intruders.
And the appearance of al-Qaida's No. 2 leader raises a compelling question: Where's No. 1? We have hardly heard from bin Laden since he popped up like a Cheshire cat four years ago in a videotaped address to the American people a few days before the presidential election.
Why no new bin Laden this time? Maybe the old fox is growing cautious or more cowardly. American forces have stepped up their missile strikes in the tribal regions along the porous Afghan-Pakistan border. Discretion can be the better part of bin Laden's survival.
Or maybe he's dead. Many intelligence experts think his notoriously bad kidneys may have done him in while he hid out in some cave in the wilds of Western Pakistan. The Grim Reaper may already have done the work of America's covert intelligence community without firing a shot.
While that mystery simmers, the bookish Zawahiri does not inspire the same charismatic zing among in the Islamic world, especially among the Muslims al-Qaida has been trying to woo in East Africa. Many potential recruits there have been too happily joining Americans in celebrating Obama's new house the White House!