Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

The Islamic State’s Shock-and-Bore Terrorism

“It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty”, wrote the novelist Martin Amis. “That was the defining moment.” He was referring to United Airlines Flight 175: the second plane that smashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. “That second plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanised with malice, and wholly alien,” Amis ruminated, adding:. “For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.”

The death of the caliphate: Why ISIS’s huge territorial setbacks in Syria and Iraq are so devastating to the terrorist group

Now that Mosul, the seat of the so-called "caliphate" in Iraq, has fallen, ISIS has a problem: It is a self-avowedly Islamic State without a state. And although the group retains its hold on Raqqa in Syria, where it's currently encircled by U.S.-backed Syrian forces, it's likely that it will relinquish that former stronghold too by the end of the year.

Muslims don’t need special praise for doing good. It’s patronizing

Not all Muslims are terrorists. Indeed, most Muslims are good and decent. These two propositions are so monumentally obvious and incontestable that you’d think they barely need enunciating, let alone repeating. But you’d be wrong, because every time some band of jihadist losers goes on a suicide-murder rampage in a western city you can bet your house on encountering them in the news coverage that inevitably and feverishly follows.

Why Jihadists Want to Kill

On Saturday night, seven people were brutally murdered in a jihadist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market. Scores more were critically injured. It is the third terrorist attack in the UK in as many months. "Things need to change," said British Prime Minister Theresa May in a speech the morning after the carnage of the night before. May is right about that. But everything she said was a regurgitation of the same old script:

All that we’ll never know about Manchester bomber Salman Ramadan Abedi

The most natural questions to ask about the Manchester terrorist attack are also the most intractable: Who was the perpetrator, and what caused him to carry it out? His name, revealed on Tuesday, is known to us: Salman Ramadan Abedi. He was a British-born 22-year-old of Libyan descent from Manchester, and he was on the radar of the British security services. He attended Salford University but dropped out in the second year of a business and management degree. More details are certain to emerge over the coming days and weeks.

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»:

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