Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

The Western Jihadi Subculture and Subterranean Values

This article draws on the criminological work of Gresham Sykes and David Matza as a starting point for theorizing the nature and appeal of the western jihadi subculture, defined here as a hybrid and heavily digitized global imaginary that extols and justifies violent jihad as a way of life and being. It suggests that at the centre of this subculture are three focal concerns: (1) Violence and Machismo; (2) Death and Martyrdom; and (3) Disdain of the Dunya. More critically, it argues that these three focal concerns have immediate counterparts in the shadow values of the wider society with which western jihadists are in contention. This argument has important implications for debates over radicalization and the attractions of jihadist activism.

Liberal Professors’ Deadly Delusions About Curing Terrorists

The British filmmaker Chris Morris has made a career of depicting the inanities and idiocies of jihadis or the agencies that try to track and ensnare them. If he wanted to do the same for his own political tribe—the liberal-left, broadly conceived—he could do worse than to set it in an august academic institution run by well-meaning progressives who believe that everyone, even convicted jihadis who once professed to love death more than life, can be reformed and brought back into the liberal fold.

France shouldn’t fall for the Isis ‘matchmaker’s’ self pity

Tooba Gondal, the so-called Isis “matchmaker” who acted as a megaphone and recruiter for the terror group, is reportedly on her way to France, as part of an initiative by Turkey to deport foreign jihadists in its jails. Gondal, who holds a French passport but spent most of her life in Britain, travelled to Syria in early 2015, where she married three times, gave birth to two children, became mates with ex-punk rocker Sally Jones, posed with an AK47 on social media, boasted about her firearm training, and hung on to the bitter end in Baghouz, from which she miraculously escaped just before it fell to Kurdish forces in March.

Trinidad’s Islamic State Problem

Editor’s Note: One of the least known, but most alarming, aspects of the Islamic State is its ability to draw recruits and sympathizers from around the world, including from many countries not known as hotbeds of radicalism. On a per-capita basis, Trinidad was one of the largest providers of volunteers for the caliphate, a development that seems to come out of nowhere. Simon Cottee of the University of Kent looks in detail at the volunteers from Trinidad, assessing their motivations and the danger they pose should they return.

The Warped World of the British Isis Fugitive Tooba Gondal

Tooba Gondal, a notorious female Isis recruiter from Britain, was until Sunday a captive in the Ain Issa camp in north-eastern Syria. Now that the camp has fallen amid the chaos that is unfolding in the region, she is free again, as are hundreds of the other foreign denizens of the camp she was housed with. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

White Supremacy Has Triggered a Terrorism Panic

Our collective response to terrorism seems to swing on a pendulum between rank complacency and terrified myth-making. In January 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama dismissed the Islamic State as al Qaeda’s “JV team.” But by September of that year, after the group had captured Mosul in Iraq and launched a genocidal campaign of slaughter against the Yazidis, he started bombing it.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Back - Minus the Bling and Bluster

When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last appeared on video, nearly five years ago, in the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, he was all swagger and poetic bluster: a veritable don proclaiming the historic establishment of the caliphate. His talk was big and bold, as was the silver watch he was wearing for the occasion. How different he now looks in his latest appearance on celluloid: a chubby, diminutive old geezer with a badly dyed beard – a faded orange – and not a watch in sight.

What right-wing violent extremists and jihadists have in common

The parallels between the extreme ideologies of the violent far right and the global jihadist fringe are too striking to ignore. Both believe that they are in a cosmic war between good and evil. Both look back to an imagined glorious past that has been derailed by an imagined inglorious present. Both think that their way of life is under existential threat and that only extreme violence can save their souls.

The ‘ISIS Matchmaker’ Wants to Return to the UK

At the end of last week, the Rojava Information Center in Syria contacted me to assist them in identifying a woman they believed to be Tooba Gondal, a 25-year-old east Londoner who joined ISIS in early 2015. I'd spent over 18 months tracking her since she left the UK, and had in my possession an audio tape of her voice. On Monday the Center issued a statement via Twitter confirming that "Tooba Gondal – AKA 'the ISIS matchmaker' – is alive, in a North East Syria refugee camp", adding that "she wishes to be repatriated to the UK".

The link between terrorism and ideology

It has suddenly become very difficult to have a conversation about terrorism that isn’t overtly politicised or faintly hysterical. This is because so much of the discussion is dominated by what the late American philosopher Robert Nozick scornfully described as ‘normative sociology’ – the ‘study of what the causes of problems ought to be’.

The Sinister ISIS Plan for Women and Children

Land was once the biggest asset of the so-called Islamic State, giving the group its core claim to legitimacy. Today, in the immediate aftermath of losing its last pocket of territory in eastern Syria, women are its most prized asset, giving the group perhaps its last chance of survival.

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