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 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.

Religion, crime, and violence

This chapter explores the relationship between crime and religion, focusing in particular on jihadist religious violence. It is concerned to explain why the relationship between religion and violence is so contested and how it has been understood or, in some cases, explained away. It also addresses the construction of religion in criminology as a ‘prosocial’ social control mechanism, and goes on to sketch out how criminology can engage more fully and fruitfully with religious-based violence.

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.

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