Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

Terrorists Are Not Snowflakes

Something profound and seismic is happening in the way Western societies understand terrorism, and jihadi radicalization in particular. Until now, the terms of the debate were set by two master narratives about terrorists, usefully categorized in an Atlantic article published just over 30 years ago by the Irish intellectual Conor Cruise O’Brien as the “hysterical stereotype” and the “sentimental stereotype.” The former saw terrorism as a form of pathology perpetrated by “‘disgruntled abnormal[s]’ given to ‘mindless violence,’” whereas the latter characterized it as a form of political resistance mounted by “misguided idealist[s] … driven to violence by political or social injustice or both.”

No, the Travel Ban Isn’t Being Used as ISIS Propaganda

What does ISIS think of President Donald Trump and the travel ban? The consensus among liberals, prominent terrorism experts and even some conservatives is that the jihadists are enthused, in a gleeful, hand-rubbing sort of way, by his presidency and that they warmly welcome the “self-inflicted wound” of the executive order on refugees as a “propaganda victory.” The reason for this, the argument goes, is that both Trump and the ban play directly into the hands of ISIS and its narrative that “America is at war with Islam” and that the terrorist group will make symbolic capital from it.

Dissecting the ISIS attack on British Parliament

“Yesterday,” said the British Prime Minister Theresa May in her House of Commons speech on the attack near the British Parliament on Wednesday, “an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy.” Much of what May said was right and necessary, but this was an odd formulation, as if what happened wasn’t the work of a living, breathing — and now dead — human being, who, far from trying to silence an abstract principle, killed and seriously injured actual people. It was also only half right: What happened on Wednesday was not just an act of terrorism; it was also an act of insurgent violence against the British state.

ISIS Will Fail, but What About the Idea of ISIS?

The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the London attack that left three people and the attacker dead on Wednesday. “It is believed that this attacker acted alone,” Prime Minister Theresa May said, adding that the British-born man, already known to authorities, was inspired by “Islamist terrorism.” For its part, ISIS called the attacker its “soldier” in a report published by its Amaq news agency in both Arabic and English. The caliphate, it seemed, was eager to signal to a broad audience that it was as busy and effective as ever. The facts, however, tell a different story.

The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump's America

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,” Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.” Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.”

The curious absence of Donald Trump in ISIS propaganda

President Trump has brought chaos and uncertainty to domestic politics in America. It is a deeply disquieting spectacle — but one that’s utterly riveting, if exhausting, to watch. Trump, plainly, is a disaster for America and Americans. But is he, as so many commentators and counter-terrorism experts insist, a boon for ISIS and the jihadists he spends so much time propagandizing about? On the face of it, the answer is an emphatic yes.

La sexualité est essentielle pour comprendre la radicalisation

En janvier, le gouvernement américain rendait publics quarante-neuf nouveaux documents saisis, en 2011, dans la cache d'Oussama ben Laden à Abbottabad, au Pakistan. Parmi ces pièces –constituant le quatrième et ultime dossier dévoilé depuis 2012–, se trouve une lettre adressée à un collègue d'Afrique du Nord et dans laquelle le feu leader d'al-Qaida soulève «une question de la plus haute importance et du plus haut degré de confidentialité»:

Osama bin Laden’s Secret Masturbation Fatwa

In January, the U.S. government released 49 new documents seized in 2011 from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Among the items — the fourth and final batch of bin Laden documents made public since 2012 — is a letter addressed to a senior colleague in North Africa in which the now-deceased al Qaeda leader raises “a very special and top secret matter”:

Trump's Travel Ban Will Not 'Help' ISIS Recruitment

The conventional liberal wisdom on the Trump administration’s executive order suspending immigration to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries—also known as “the Muslim ban”—is that the ban is as counterproductive as it is illiberal. The argument, roughly, is that with the order signed on Friday, the Trump administration has “played into the hands” of ISIS and other jihadist groups, giving a boon to their propaganda motif that America is at war with Islam.

Why ISIS Are Using So Many Children in Their Propaganda Videos

The so-called Islamic State has seemingly done the impossible: earlier this month it released what is arguably its most shocking and abhorrent atrocity video yet. This is quite a statement, of course: ISIS has made a lot of truly shocking and abhorrent atrocity videos. Some of these depict mass beheadings, burnings, drownings and stonings – all in horrible high definition close-up. The new video, titled "Made Me Alive with His Own Blood", features the murder of a broken and defenceless man at the hands of a three-year-old boy. A. Three. Year. Old.

31st Jan 2017

‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’ deserves a laugh

Crazy, blood-curdling, infidel-hating, bearded dudes are clearly very funny, as anyone who has watched the film “Four Lions” knows. Released in 2010, Chris Morris’ dark satire follows five wannabe jihadists on their quest to strike a blow against the unbelievers of Britain. In the tradition of Chaplin sending up Hitler, Morris portrays these characters as more clueless idiots than fearsome fanatics, more morons than masterminds.

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