Non-Islamic ISIS phenomenon

So, if you want to fight radical ideology, you should gently or firmly assert one simple thing: We need as few bans as possible


The phenomenon of ISIS (nowadays mostly called just IS — “Islamic State”) does not have to be Islamic. In can also be an offspring of Christianity, or be not related to any religion at all.

A Russian scandal around a movie called “Matilda” shows all that very clearly.

Matilda Kshesinskaya was a famous ballerina in St Petersburg in the late 1890s-early 1900s. She was rumoured to be the mistress of the two last Russian emperors.

But the problem is the last emperor Nicholas II was executed by the Communists in 1918 and was proclaimed a martyr saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

So, no producer can make a movie about his illicit affairs with dancing girls, even if everyone knows it was true and well-documented. The theatres demonstrating such movie may be burned — literally so.

Who says so — the state? The Orthodox Church? Neither of them. We are talking about a sect, or maybe several sects existing in opposition to both.

One is called “Church of Monarch God”, which teaches that the late emperor had become an avatar of God (a very unorthodox idea, that). The other calls itself “Orthodox State — Sacred Russia” or OS.

It was the name of the latter that demonstrated to all that Russia does have a nucleus of its own IS, and it even uses a very similar name.

Almost every Russian began to wonder if our nation, and our religion, too, may give birth to a phenomenon like IS.

What’s funny is the sect’s name had been adopted in 2013 as a challenge, not as a compliment to IS. The idea was that if the radical preachers from faraway lands tried their collective hands on Russian soil, there’d be people to confront them.

Today we are thanking “Matilda” for helping us see the danger and for revealing the face of the enemy (better the devil you know than the one you don’t).

We are talking about several dozens or hundreds of very dubious personalities. The founder of the OS, Alexander Kalinin, currently in jail, is serving a long prison term for robbery and murder.

He stole an equivalent of RM9,000 and killed the victim. There are a lot of obviously deranged persons among his followers.

IS, OS — what’s common between all such radicals?

Mostly, it’s a very strange conviction that they have a right not just to preach what they call “chaste and proper living”, but also to use force to make other people do or not do something. In Russia’s case, we are talking about their fierce attempts not to let “Matilda” hit the screens.

The Ministry of Justice and police offices have been bombarded with petitions, the Internet was seething with hatred: Not a small feat for a relatively small group of society’s virtual outcasts, at odds with the Orthodox Church, etc.

These people were clever enough to use a recent and very vague law, punishing activities that may offend people’s religious feelings. Nobody expected a crafty turnaround of that law, namely, “if my feelings are offended, the other side is already guilty”.

I wonder what the fate of that law will be today, by the way.

Several relatively prominent politicians have fallen victims to propaganda and coercing, making speeches against the movie.

The sect’s members or their followers have shown amazing agility in violence and sabotage, too. Cars were burned and cinema chains were prodded into refusing to screen the movie.

The state, after initial inactivity, has firmly supported the producers, so we may yet see “Matilda” on Oct 23.

Yes, the whole scandal erupted before the screening. The radicals have never seen the movie, they just needed a pretext to flex their muscles.

It’s time to make some conclusions. The key word is “ban”. The IS radicals, when they still occupied parts of Syria and Iraq, ruled by banning of everything they disliked.

The Russian radicals have the same programme. There were interviews with Kalinin circulating in the social media, and he also wants bans. What can offend other people, he said, has to be banned (“like in Iran”, suddenly he remarked, adding: “everything you do should please all the people around you”).

So, if you want to fight radical ideology, you should gently or firmly assert one simple thing: We need as few bans as possible.

The world has been flooded with bans, introduced by Western or Eastern governments, pressed by all kind of radicals eager to ban some- thing on people who do not share their ideas.

American feminists or “racism fighters” and IS — are there any differences between them?

IS uses terrorism (as in harming or killing innocent people). So, the means are slightly different. But the aims are almost the same — to change, by force, other peoples’ life-styles. We have to ban their kind of thinking from our lives.

Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.