One rarely expects the prime minister of a nation to become a cheerleader for a television program. But, in October 2019, that’s exactly what Pakistani leader Imran Khan did. And with it, he unleashed a phenomenon that has since gripped his nation and become the point among fans and critics alike.
That the drama series in question is Turkish and not Pakistani only adds to the intrigue.
Dirilis: Ertugrul may be a big-budget series that depicts the prehistory of the Ottoman Empire. it’s supported the lifetime of the 13th-century Muslim Oghuz Turk leader, who was the daddy of Osman I, the founding father of the Ottoman Empire.
The show takes the name of the daddy and presents his tribe as a band of plucky rebels caught between Christian crusaders, Byzantine warriors, and fearsome Mongols. The scene is about for his tribe to invoke Islam and triumph against all odds. The premise is about, historical facts are manipulated for dramatic effect, and therefore the production values are suitably overblown.
Since the show first launched in Turkey in 2014, it’s become successful and a money-spinner for all involved, also airing on Netflix, with Turkish and English subtitles, since 2018.
Perhaps that ought to are the top of it. The very nature of our insatiable appetite for TV drama means fans advance to a subsequent big thing. during this case, they didn’t.
In praising the show and ordering Pakistan’s national broadcaster to dub it into Urdu, Prime Minister Khan unwittingly became, if not the show’s executive producer, certainly something close.
His move made Ertugrul accessible to a far bigger audience and subsequently helped make it even more of a successful television program internationally. it had been instantly popular when it aired with Urdu translation on the primary day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and it only continues to urge bigger.
Pakistan’s contradictory identity
It was not money that drove the prime minister’s decision, but concern that Islamic values were being eroded in Pakistan, and therefore the incontrovertible fact that Pakistan has always paid reference to leaders of the Muslim world.
The deference to the traditional leaders of the Islamic world has always been a part of Pakistan’s identity and sometimes the basis of its contradictory nature.
Is Pakistan South Asian Muslim? Or is it based on Arab roots as some leaders have pushed? Or is it closer to Turkish culture in origin?
Imran Khan blog ertugrul
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Reuters]
Ertugrul in some ways speaks to the identity of Muslim Pakistan, but does it speak to avoid therein identity that needs affirmation from something that happened during a faraway land, an extended time ago?
“Turkish history and South Asian history aren’t ‘faraway’ by any stretch of the imagination,” says Mosharraf Zaidi, a senior fellow at Pakistani think-tank Tabadlab.
“For decades, modern secular Turkey and modern Pakistan are extremely close allies. The bonds are historic, military, and strategic, and since the emergence of AKP under Turkish leader Erdogan, they need increasingly taken on cultural dimensions. Ertugrul’s popularity marks an engagement of Pakistanis with the notion of an excellent Muslim past. It marks neither the affirmation of such a past nor any crisis of identity. It’s just a well-liked television program .”
That it’s a well-liked television program is definitely. The YouTube channel has millions watching. it’s seen as a real cultural phenomenon that sparks internet memes, countless social media posts, and even Pakistani fans getting upset that the actors within the show aren’t as Islamic as they might like them to be. Comments on the actors’ Instagram pages have seen Pakistani fans show ire that a number of the feminine stars wear a non-conservative dress in which one actor is seen petting his dog.
But maybe even that’s a neighborhood and parcel of the phenomenon. On the one hand, Pakistani fans are exposed to Islamic history, on the opposite they’re exposed to the culture of modern-day, urban, secular Turkey.
Ertugrul and male viewers
This is not the primary time that Turkish programmes became popular outside of Turkey.
Turkish soap operas set in times and based – as soap operas are – around family drama, betrayal and over-the-top acting have also been incredibly popular. But nobody has ever mentioned them as a cultural phenomenon, perhaps partially because the audience for soap operas is overwhelmingly female?
Ertugrul offers an alternate narrative to a rustic with a majority population of under-35s to attach with a past empire related to conquest instead of fighting against colonialism.
Laaleen Sukhera writes extensively on Pakistan and is predicated in Lahore.
“Turkish period drama has been popular across the region for a short time now,” she says.
“Magnificent Century was dubbed in Urdu too with a predominantly female viewership varying in age. Ertugrul marks the primary time that young men structure a big number of viewers of Turkish programming and that is why it suddenly feels more mainstream and significant in patriarchal Pakistan.
“Ertugrul offers an alternate narrative to a rustic with a majority population of under-35s to attach with a past empire related to conquest instead of fighting against colonialism. it is a soapy period drama but whether it inspires big-budget depictions of subcontinental heroes like Razia Sultan and Chand Bibi remains unclear,” she adds.
Soft power and therefore the Muslim historical narrative
The fact the prime minister has backed the show with words and action can also speak to his own agenda in establishing Pakistan as a pre-eminent player within the Muslim world.
He has not been shy in saying that Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia should establish themselves as leaders. His first front in establishing that goal seems to be cultural and taking control of the Muslim historical narrative. But in doing so, has he played into Turkey’s hands and therefore the soft power it wields? By pushing a television program based around Turkish Ottoman history, is he doing the Turks’ bidding for them?
Ahmer Naqvi may be a freelance cultural writer who sees Ertugrul as a part of a wider agenda.
“There is certainly a component of the Pakistani state pushing a particular idea of Islamic history, that focuses on conquest and expansionism which features a long history of getting used as propaganda,” he says.
“This push has come at the expense of even acknowledging the history of what’s now settled Pakistan. So you’d realize Muslim general Salahuddin but not about Chanakya, who lived in settled Pakistan, so yes, there’s valid concern that the state is pushing a wider history and not its own. generally i might like to see the Pakistani state invest in its own cultural industries.”
At its heart, what Ertugrul represents during this scenario may be a battle for the soul of the Islamic narrative and for Pakistan’s own self-image.
Does the country have a singular Muslim identity forged via Muslim India, or is it a part of the broader history of the Muslim world? the solution thereto is what informs its current self-image.