Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

The calypso caliphate: how Trinidad became a recruiting ground for ISIS

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), a small twin-island republic in the Caribbean, has one of the highest rates of foreign fighter radicalization in the western hemisphere. According to official estimates, around 130 Trinidadian nationals migrated to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2016. This article seeks to make sense of these migrations, placing them in the broader historical and social context in which they occurred.

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.

What the Media Won’t Tell You About ISIS

Here’s a prediction: When or if the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed, if he isn’t dead already, foreign-policy pundits will argue that his bloody demise is ultimately a hollow victory for the Western-backed anti-ISIS coalition, and that ISIS, as an idea and an organization, will long outlive the death of its “caliph.” Some will even argue that his killing is in fact a boon to the group, since in death he will live on even more radiantly as a martyr.

ISIS and the Fish and Chip-Loving Jihadists

The litany of excuses given by captured western ISIS members is, by now, all-too familiar. I was tricked into going. I was just a cook. I was brainwashed. I didn't know what ISIS was. I went there by accident. I was drugged. I went to help.

28th Jan 2019

A Flawed European Ruling on Free Speech

According to dominant Islamic traditions, the Prophet Muhammad’s third wife Aisha was six years old at their marriage and nine at its consummation. Muslims, as Graeme Wood has pointed out, have debated the issue of Aisha’s age for a very long time, and critics of Islam seemingly can’t keep off the subject.

Can Facebook Really Drive Violence?

Facebook representatives have been hauled before Congress three times in the past year—including testimony this week from Sheryl Sandberg—to answer uncomfortable questions about technology’s role in the spread of misinformation and its threat to U.S. democracy. But those questions aren’t the extent of the company’s public-relations problems.

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