Portrait of Dr Simon Cottee

Dr Simon Cottee

Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Deputy Admissions Officer, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research


Dr Simon Cottee joined Kent in July 2013 as a Senior Lecturer in Criminology. Before this, he worked in the School of Social Sciences at Bangor University and at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.

Dr Cottee was educated at Cambridge University, the LSE and Keele University, where he took a PhD in criminology.

Dr Cottee is currently working in the area of the sociology of religion and has recently completed an ESRC-funded study of ex-Muslims in Britain and Canada. 

Research interests

Dr Cottee's research interests are in the areas of apostasy, deviance, political violence and terrorism, and war. 

Dr Cottee has recently completed an ESRC-funded study of Islamic apostasy. This study explores the phenomenon of Muslim apostasy from the perspective of self-described Muslim apostates. Drawing on life-history interviews with a group of ex-Muslims in Britain and Canada, it provides a detailed qualitative account of what it means and what it is like for apostates to disaffiliate from Islam. The main focus of the study is on the leaving-process and its ramifications as they are experienced and understood by apostates themselves. 


Dr Cottee teaches modules on war, atrocity and genocide, crime, culture and control, and criminal justice at undergraduate level. 

At postgradulate level, he teaches criminological theory.


Dr Cottee welcomes research proposals from anyone interested in studying religious defection, deviance, political violence, terrorism or war. He is particularly interested in supervising students who can bring a global perspective to their work. Two of his current PhD students from Saudi Arabia are exploring counter-terrorism initiatives in that country.  


Dr Cottee is a member of the following:

  • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
  • Association for the Sociology of Religion
  • Editorial Board of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism
  • ESRC College
  • Board of Advisers of the Center for the Study of Terrorism in Rome, Italy.


Showing 50 of 95 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Cottee, S. (2019). The Calypso Caliphate: How Trinidad Became a Recruiting Ground for ISIS. International Affairs [Online] 95:297-317. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiz026.
    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. Drawing on a range of quantitative and qualitative primary sourcematerial, the article finds, contrary to expectation, that the archetypal adult ISIS traveller from T&T is not a marginalized, youthful and mostly male city dweller who radicalized outside of a mosque, but is in fact as likely to be female as male, who is in his or her mid-30s, married, has children, attends a mosque, lives in a rural area, and has suffered neither the pains of economic hardship nor the ill-effects of marginalization from the wider society because of his or her Muslim identity. As well as emphasizing the intersection between the local and the global in jihadist foreign traveller mobilizations, the article also demonstrates the importance of personal connections in the migrations of Trinidadians to Syria and Iraq, lending further support to research on the centrality of social networks in facilitating radicalization and foreign fighter mobilizations.
  • Cottee, S. and Cunliffe, J. (2018). Watching ISIS: How young adults engage with official English-language ISIS videos. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2018.1444955.
    Research on jihadist online propaganda (henceforth 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 ISIS 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.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). The curious absence of Donald Trump in ISIS propaganda. The New York Daily News [Online]. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/curious-absence-donald-trump-isis-propaganda-article-1.2980211.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). The Real Housewives of ISIS’ deserves a laugh. The Los Angeles Times [Online]. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-cottee-real-housewives-of-isis-20170110-story.html.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Muslims don’t need special praise for doing good. It’s patronizing. The Telegraph [Online]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/23/muslims-dont-need-special-praise-good-patronising/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Osama bin Laden’s Secret Masturbation Fatwa. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/01/osama-bin-ladens-secret-masturbation-fatwa/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). La sexualité est essentielle pour comprendre la radicalization. Slate [Online]. Available at: http://www.slate.fr/story/136547/oussama-ben-laden-et-sa-fatwa-secrete-sur-la-masturbation.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Why ISIS Are Using So Many Children in Their Propaganda Videos. Vice [Online]. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/9adaye/why-isis-are-using-so-many-children-in-their-propaganda-videos.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump’s America. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/dilemma-facing-ex-muslim-atheists-in-trumps-america/518553/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). All that we’ll never know about Manchester bomber Salman Ramadan Abedi. The Los Angeles Times [Online]. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-cottee-who-was-the-manchester-perpetrator-and-what-caused-his-action-20170524-story.html.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Why Jihadists Want to Kill. Vice [Online]. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/ev4nme/why-jihadists-want-to-kill.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). ISIS Will Fail, but What About the Idea of ISIS?. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/idea-of-isis-will-outlive-caliphate/520224/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Trump’s Travel Ban Will Not ’Help’ ISIS Recruitment. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/02/isis-travel-ban-propaganda-trump/515283/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Terrorists Are Not Snowflakes. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/27/terrorists-are-not-snowflakes/.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). No, the Travel Ban Isn’t Being Used as ISIS Propaganda. POLITICO Magazine [Online]. Available at: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/travel-ban-isis-propaganda-214953.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Dissecting the ISIS attack on British Parliament. The New York Daily News [Online]. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/dissecting-isis-attack-british-parliament-article-1.3007864.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Tracking the Online life of a Female British ISIS Recruiter. Vice [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/umm-muthanna-al-britania-syria-828.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). The Shadow of Jihadi John. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/jihadi-john-isis-dead/424965/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Translating ISIL’s ’atrocity porn’. National Post [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/simon-cottee-translating-isils-atrocity-porn.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Flemming Rose: The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/flemming-rose-danish-cartoons/473670/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Did the capture of a terrorist in Brussel’s prompt the attacks?. Los Angeles Times [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-cottee-brussels-islamic-state-20160323-story.html.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Is there any ’Logic’ to Suicide Terrorism?. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/suicide-terrorism-theories-logic/475821/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Europes’s Joint Smoking, Gay-Club Hopping Terrorists. Foreign Policy ( Turkish edition) [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/13/the-joint-smoking-gay-club-hopping-terrorists-of-molenbeek-abdeslam-radicalization/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). "What ISIS Really Wants" Revisited: Religion matters in jihadist violence, but how?. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism [Online]:1-16. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2016.1221258.
    In his influential and provocative article on ?What ISIS Really Wants?, published in The Atlantic
    in March 2015, Graeme Wood argued that ?the Islamic state is Islamic. Very Islamic.? He also
    sought to challenge what he diagnosed as a ?western bias? among academics and policy makers
    toward religious ideology, whereby religious doctrines or beliefs are relegated to the status of
    epiphenomena rather than taken seriously as causal properties in their own right. Wood‘s article
    sparked a wider - and still ongoing - debate over the relationship between Islam and jihadist violence.
    For one side in this debate, ISIS is inexplicable without reference to Islamic scripture; indeed,
    some commentators and politicians have even argued that it represents the ?true? face of
    Islam; for the other side, ISIS is a hideous distortion of Islam‘s ?true? teachings, and is inexplicable
    without reference to the wider political circumstances in which it emerged and to which it is a response.
    This article attempts to forge a middle way between these two polarized viewpoints
    by arguing that any comprehensive account of ISIS must recognize both its secular and
    theological bases. More specifically, and drawing on the work of the intellectual historian
    Quentin Skinner, it argues that Wood‘s critics, in their understandable but misplaced eagerness
    to detach Islam from jihadist violence, fail to accord proper causal weight to the legitimizing role
    of revolutionary Islamic ideas - and the innovating ideologists who develop these – in the commission
    of this violence.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Reborn into Terrorism. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/isis-criminals-converts/426822/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). What’s the Right Way to Think About Religion and ISIS?. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/religion-isis-orlando/490958/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). What If Some Suicide Bombers Are Just Suicidal?. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/05/suicide-terrorists-brahim-abdeslam/481419/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Anjem Choudary and the Criminalization of Dissent. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/19/anjem-choudary-and-the-criminalization-of-dissent-britain-isis/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). How a British College Student Became an ISIS Matchmaker. Vice [Online]. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/pgpvxn/how-a-british-college-student-became-an-isis-matchmaker.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). ISIS in the Caribbean. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/12/isis-trinidad/509930/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Did the Terrorists Win in Denmark?. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/28/did-the-terrorists-win-in-denmark-flemming-rose-jyllands-posten-muhammad-cartoons/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). What It Feels Like to Lose Your Kids to ISIS. Vice [Online]. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/vdq7m3/lose-kids-to-isis-trinidad.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). What ISIS Women Want. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/17/what-isis-women-want-gendered-jihad/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). Comment la religion transforme des petites frappes en terrorists. Slate [Online]. Available at: http://www.slate.fr/story/122979/religion-terrorisme.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). The Salvation of Sinners and the Suicide Bomb. Foreign Policy [Online]. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/11/the-salvation-of-sinners-and-the-suicide-bomb-islam-crime-isis-conversion/.
  • Cottee, S. (2016). The Jihad Will Be Televised. The Atlantic [Online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/06/terrorism-execution-film/489152/.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Flights From Islam. Pacific Standard [Online]:1-2. Available at: https://psmag.com/flights-from-islam-71d61118992f#.mik0ow2m3.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Why the UK Government’s Anti-Terror Proposals are Dangerously Shortsighted. Vice [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/proposed-uk-anti-terror-legislation-is-a-very-bad-idea-737.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). The Zoolander Theory of Terrorism. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/05/zoolander-terrorists-brainwashed-isis/393050/.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?. Los Angeles Times [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-adv-cottee-isis-20150329-story.html.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). What Motivates Terrorists?. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/06/terrorism-isis-motive/395351/.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Why would anyone join ISIL?. National Post [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/simon-cottee-why-would-anyone-join-isil.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Pilgrims to the Islamic State. The Atlantic [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/07/isis-foreign-fighters-political-pilgrims/399209/.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). The Jihadists Next Door. Boston Globe [Online]:1-2. Available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/07/24/the-jihadists-next-door/tTAhyjpBBSrAZTD8a0yTyO/story.html.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Not every woman is a victim. Some are just straight up defectors. National Post [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/simon-cottee-not-every-woman-is-a-victim-some-are-just-straight-up-defectors.
  • Cottee, S. (2015). Europe’s moral panic about the migrant Muslim ’Other’. Los Angeles Times [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-cottee-fear-of-refugees-20151013-story.html.

Book section

  • Cottee, S. (2017). Religion, Crime and Violence. In: Liebling, A., Maruna, S. and McAra, L. eds. Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Cottee, S. (2017). Foreword to The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism by Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij. In: Hamm, M. S. and Spaaij, R. eds. The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism. New York, USA: Columbia University Press.


  • AlMaawi, M. (2016). Counter-Terrorism in Saudi Arabia: Narratives, Practices and Challenges.
    Since 9/11, both in the Middle East and worldwide, the academic, political and religious focus on extreme radicalisation has intensified. The attacks carried out in Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by Al-Qaeda in 2003, motivated a succession of bombings within and outside of the Kingdom. These events have led to a plethora of general and specific studies to understand the phenomenon of extremism.

    This thesis investigates radicalisation in Saudi Arabia since 2001, focusing on the impact of Al-Qaeda and its impact on individuals and the state. It specifically focuses on the role of the Mohammed bin Naif Centre for Counselling, Rehabilitation and Care, in this context referred to as ‘the Centre’, analysing its function as a tool for the ‘soft power’ strategy that has been initiated by the Saudi Arabian Government, intended to de-radicalise individuals who are perceived by the state to have been misled.

    The study uses a detailed literature review to unpack the historical trends regarding the origins of Saudi Arabia, the political differences therein, as well as the different religious interpretations which are attributed as being a root cause of discontent which thereby leads to radicalisation and violent extremism in the region. In this thesis, I trace the various schools of thought regarding the treatment of religion and governance in relation to local and international politics, and how this impacts upon the radicalisation of individuals.

    A Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS) approach is used to highlight the need to view studies on security from a reflexive perspective, both in the researcher and the researched subject matter, namely the terrorist organisations and the governments against which they are fighting. The concept of governance is analysed and how this either precipitates or prevents dissent that results in violence.

    In addition, the political and religious solutions to radicalisation are assessed, with a specific focus on the de-radicalisation process, as reflected through a qualitative research on the views and thinking of the practitioners working in the Centre. In this context, I investigate the motives, roles, responsibilities and strategies used in executing their roles, with the aim of seeking possible explanations for the causes of radicalisation and the challenges faced in de-radicalising individuals. Their views are used to form the main basis for the data for this research.

    This study should be of interest to politicians, security experts, academics, religious leaders, Islamic scholars and interested individuals. It will be a valuable contribution towards an understanding of the causes, consequences and possible solutions to addressing Islamic extremism and radicalisation.


  • Cottee, S. (2018). In the Closet: The Concealment of Apostasy among Ex-Muslims in Britain and Canada. In: van Nieuwkerk, K. ed. Moving In and Out of Islam. University of Texas Press. Available at: https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/van-nieuwkerk-moving-in-and-out-of-islam.
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