Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

Why Do We Want to Watch Gory Jihadist Propaganda Videos?

What does prolonged exposure to jihadist online propaganda do to us?
One popular answer, especially among politicians, is that it radicalizes our thoughts and transforms us into terrorists.
A more nuanced answer, put forward by terrorism scholars, is that while sustained exposure to extremist online material is not in itself a sufficient cause of radicalization, it can reinforce existing assumptions and beliefs that are already tending toward the extreme.

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.

How a British College Student Became an ISIS Matchmaker

In March of last year, less than two months after arriving in Syria, Umm Muthanna al-Britannia tweeted a picture of herself wearing a burqa and brandishing an AK-47. It was captioned: "Living the life of real freedom." Yet not so long ago she was enjoying a very different kind of freedom, hooking up with guys, wearing make-up, and listing her favorite activities online as: "Jamin wid my gyalsz, Sleepin, Munchin, & SmoOkiin."

20th Dec 2016

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.”

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