Simon Cottee

Academic and Author

LA Times

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.

‘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.

Did the capture of a terrorist in Brussels prompt the attacks?

Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Brussels raise two key questions: Were they related to Salah Abdeslam's arrest last week and, if so, how? It seems unlikely that the attacks were revenge for the capture of Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's Paris attacks, because not only was he a relative nonentity in Islamic State circles but also a symbolic liability to the brand: Here is a man who reportedly walked away from a martyrdom operation, leaving his colleagues to do all the dirty work, so to speak. In other words, he isn't someone whom any other militant is likely to have sacrificed himself for. In fact, it is probable that, after Abdeslam's arrest, he would have been regarded as a threat to the wider network of terrorists in Belgium.

Europe's moral panic about the migrant Muslim 'Other'

All summer and into the fall, Britain — and the wider European Union — has been convulsed by fear. Its leaders and many of its citizens are reacting — and dangerously overreacting — to an "enemy" within and without.
In the first instance, the specter is a native son or daughter, schooled in Western ways but choosing instead to follow an extreme interpretation of Islam. In the second, it is the desperate and traumatized refugee, threatening to monopolize not merely local resources but also, more unsettlingly, cultural space. Both look pretty much the same: the migrant Muslim "other."

What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?

“She used to watch ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ and stuff like that, so there was nothing that indicated that she was radicalized in any way — not at home.” So said Sahima Begum in her testimony before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in London this month. She was speaking about her sister Shamima, 15, who together with Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, absconded from England last month to Turkey, eventually crossing the border into Syria.

Islamic State's badass path to paradise

In his 1988 book “Seductions of Crime,” UCLA sociologist Jack Katz devotes an entire chapter to what he calls the “ways of the badass.” “In many youthful circles,” he writes, “to be ‘bad,' to be a ‘badass' or otherwise overtly to embrace symbols of deviance is regarded as a good thing.”

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