Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

“Easily the most original book on the ISIS phenomenon to date. A riveting detective story with deep insights on human behavior, this is social science at its best.”
Thomas Hegghammer, author of The Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the Rise of Global Jihad
"Cottee's book offers us new and original insights into the surprisingly understudied world of Trinidadian ISIS members. With such a relatively high proportion of its population joining ISIS, Trinidad offers a useful case study in better understanding the global reach of the movement. Cottee takes on the challenge of analysing this with passion and an eye for detail."
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, KCL, UK
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Black Flags of the Caribbean

Incel (E)motives: Resentment, Shame and Revenge

This article provides a framework for thinking about incels and incel-inspired terrorism. Incels are part of a fringe online subculture that trades in misogyny, victimhood and fatalism. The aim of the article is to describe these aforementioned orientations and the emotions associated with them. Only a tiny minority of incels commit acts of incel-inspired terrorism. Research on shame and revenge provides a useful starting-point for understanding these acts.

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.

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.

Inside Europol's Online War Against ISIS

In January I travelled to Europol's heavily fortified HQ in The Hague to interview members of the EU's Internet Referral Unit (IRU), an innocuous-sounding name for a group that spends most of its time trawling the internet for beheadings, bomb-making manuals, hysterical incitements and all the rest of it.

10th Apr 2018

Watching ISIS: How Young Adults Engage with Official English-Language ISIS Videos

Research on jihadist online propaganda (JOP) tends to focus on the production, content, and dissemination of jihadist online messages. Correspondingly, the target of JOP—that is, the audience—has thus far attracted little scholarly attention. This article seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on how audiences respond to jihadist online messaging. It presents the findings of an online pilot survey testing audience responses to clips from English-language Islamic State of Iraq and Syria videos. The survey was beset at every stage by ethical, legal, and practical restrictions, and we discuss how these compromised our results and what this means for those attempting to do research in this highly sensitive area.

The 'Softer' Side of Jihadists

“Yes,” wrote Elie Wiesel, “it is possible to defile life and creation and feel no remorse. To tend one’s garden and water one’s flowers but two steps away from barbed wire. … To go on vacation, be enthralled by the beauty of a landscape, make children laugh—and still fulfill regularly, day in and day out, the duties of [a] killer.”

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