Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

Did the Terrorists Win in Denmark?

For someone so unassuming and affable, Flemming Rose, the former foreign affairs editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, has a prodigious talent for making trouble. And trouble, for its part, has a special talent for finding Rose. On Sept. 19, 2005, Rose, the then culture editor at Jyllands-Posten, invited 42 Danish cartoonists and illustrators to draw the Prophet Muhammad “as they see him” for publication in the newspaper. Twelve artists took up the challenge, and on Sept. 30, that year, Jyllands-Posten duly published 12 editorial cartoons under the title, “The Face of Muhammad.” Of the 12, the most notorious was by Kurt Westergaard, depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban. Another showed the prophet in heaven, remonstrating suicide bombers with the words, “Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins!” The purpose of this exercise, Rose later explained in a Washington Post article, “wasn’t to provoke gratuitously,” but rather “to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter.”

What It Feels Like to Lose Your Kids to ISIS

In February of 2015, three east London schoolgirls absconded to Syria and vanished into the block caps of international headline news. Less than three months earlier, in November of 2014, Qadirah and Muhammad Roach just vanished. The three east London schoolgirls prompted a global outcry, and not a little hysteria about the power and potency of Islamic State propaganda. But Qadirah and Muhammad – whose journey to Syria began from the Caribbean Island of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) – didn't even make it onto the front page.

13th Oct 2016

Comment la religion transforme des petites frappes en terroristes

Entre le terroriste et ses crimes, le fossé est énorme. Les actes terroristes sont souvent monstrueux et défient toute compréhension humaine. Mais, comme le montrent plus de trois décennies de recherche, les terroristes sont en très grande majorité normaux sur un plan psychologique: nous n'avons pas affaire à des fanatiques aux yeux révulsés et à la bouche écumante, mais à des assassins ordinaires, avec des vies et des personnalités manquant, pour reprendre la célèbre formule d'Hannah Arendt au sujet d'Adolf Eichmann, de «la moindre profondeur diabolique ou démoniaque.

Anjem Choudary and the Criminalization of Dissent

There is something unsettling about the conviction of Anjem Choudary, and the chorus of approval that has followed it, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. A disciple of the Islamist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who fled Britain for Lebanon in 2005, the 49-year-old former lawyer was a founding member of al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group that had once called for jihad against India, Russia, and Israel and defended the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa. For 20 years, Choudary had made a career out of Islamist activism, becoming a rent-a-quote radical the British media have been only too willing to enlist.

The Salvation of Sinners and the Suicide Bomb

The gulf between the terrorist and his atrocity is a wide one. Terrorist deeds are often monstrous and defy all human comprehension. But, as over three decades of research on terrorism shows, terrorists, by and large, are psychologically normal: not crazy-eyed, furious fanatics, but ordinary killers, with lives and personalities lacking, as Hannah Arendt famously said of Adolf Eichmann, in any kind of “diabolical or demonic profundity.”

What’s the Right Way to Think About Religion and ISIS?

In his Atlantic article on “What ISIS Really Wants” last March, Graeme Wood insisted that “the Islamic state is Islamic. Very Islamic.” Wood’s detractors have been similarly emphatic, arguing that ISIS is a perversion of the Islamic faith. For Wood’s critics, secular politics, far more than religion or religious ideology, is the key to understanding the existence and appeal of jihadist violence.

The Jihad Will Be Televised

In Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist, the author, who purports to have been a member of a left-wing militant group, vividly conveys the excitement and pressures of living underground as a secret operative. There are questions about the book’s authenticity—the author, who identifies himself only by the pseudonym Giorgio, declares that “what I write here can’t be true, it can only be truthful”—but there’s a telling detail in his description of mission preparation.

What ISIS Women Want

What do Western women who join Islamic State want? One prominent theory is what these women “really” want is to get laid. Another is that they don’t know what they “really” want, because what they want has been decided for them by male jihadi “groomers.” Both theories are meant to resolve a seeming paradox: How can any woman who enjoys democratic rights and equality before the law join or support a group which actively promotes her own oppression?

What If Some Suicide Bombers Are Just Suicidal?

When Brahim Abdeslam bespattered himself in a restaurant in last November’s Paris attacks he didn’t much look like a man, to borrow the title of Mia Bloom’s seminal study of suicide bombing, Dying to Kill. He looked, rather, like a man killing to die. If there is a script for doing a jihadist suicide mission, as there now assuredly is, Brahim Abdeslam wasn’t following it.

Europe’s Joint-Smoking, Gay-Club Hopping Terrorists

Last month, CNN released video footage of Brahim Abdeslam and his younger brother Salah dancing in a nightclub alongside a blond woman, with whom Brahim, the report claimed, was flirting. “This was life before ISIS,” the voice-over to the report says. “It’s Feb. 8, 2015. Just months later, Brahim would blow himself up at a Paris cafe; Salah becomes Europe’s most wanted man.”

Is There Any ‘Logic’ to Suicide Terrorism?

In his edited collection on “suicide missions,” the sociologist Diego Gambetta described his childhood admiration for Pietro Micca, a solider in the artillery regiment of the Duke of Savoy in what is now northern Italy.
“In 1706, as the French were besieging Turin,” Gambetta wrote, Micca “realized that a party of the besiegers had succeeded in penetrating the network of tunnels that were part of the city citadel, and would have no doubt been able to take it.”

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