Giles Foden writes in the Guardian:
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In October last year, an item appeared on an authoritative Russian studies website that soon had the science-fiction community buzzing with speculative excitement. It asserted that Isaac Asimov’s 1951 classic Foundation was translated into Arabic under the title “al-Qaida”. And it seemed to have the evidence to back up its claims.
“This peculiar coincidence would be of little interest if not for abundant parallels between the plot of Asimov’s book and the events unfolding now,” wrote Dmitri Gusev, the scientist who posted the article. He was referring to apparent similarities between the plot of Foundation and the pursuit of the organisation we have come to know, perhaps erroneously, as al-Qaida.
The Arabic word qaida — ordinarily meaning “base” or “foundation” — is also used for “groundwork” and “basis”. It is employed in the sense of a military or naval base, and for chemical formulae and geometry: the base of a pyramid, for example.