‘Ertugrul’ Is A Propaganda Series Meant To Brainwash Naive Minds
Recent obsession Pakistanis have found in quarantine times is a Turkish historical drama series ‘Ertugrul Ghazi’. The play has been dubbed in Urdu and runs into 100s of episodes and some five seasons, sponsored and highly recommended by none other than PM Imran Khan himself. Based on a 13 century hero, the drama glorifies Muslim value system and the Ottoman Empire. Replete with historical events (most of which are based on imagination than reality) the play depicts the everyday life of Turks and is full of references to the holy Quran and what it means to be a true Muslim.
At a closer look it can easily be guessed that it’s a propaganda play which Turkish dramas are famous for. Ertugrul as a historical figure is much shrouded in mystery as historical books don’t discuss him in much detail which makes it easier to use his personality as a propaganda tool. The play has intricately mixed Arabic tradition and misguides the viewer by presenting Arabic Islamic values as those of the Turks, for example, the Arabic tradition of veil and head covering for women which was rooted in Arabic cultural traditions not in Turkish society.
Plays like the one under discussion act as opium for naive minds such as ours. Brainwashing is a tool used most frequently in Islamic countries to further their agenda and since entertainment industry is cheap and widespread, there is nothing better than a series on semi real Islamic heroes to inculcate holy jihad in the tender minds of youth.
Ironically, in Pakistan one would hardly see a local hero raised to such heights of greatness. It’s either Arab warriors like Mohammad Bin Qasim or Afghans or Tatars who are celebrated as our national Islamic heroes. Although the way of life, culture and values of these heroes are far more different from ours, in such cases religion as a sole point is highlighted to create a sense of unity of Islamic brotherhood.
For a long time Pakistani masses were under the strong unfluene of Middle Eastern cultural and religious influence. So much so that the mainstream TV channels started calling Ramazan, Ramadhan and subah (morning) as Suhoor whereas Pakistan didn’t become Al Bakistan following Arabic accent. Since the dictatorial era of Zia, the masses, media and social influencers were obsessed with Islamic brotherhood and it was wrongly assumed that it could be achieved by imitating Arab accents, fashions and values. This Arab hegemony now has a serious competition from imported Turk fashions and values.
This wavering between Arabs and Turks shows the self deception of Pakistanis as a nation and their lack of trust in their own indigenous values, traditions, dress codes, languages and beliefs.
While the world of Islamic thought is broad and extensive encompassing diverse often conflicting trends and expressions on any given subject, the problematic aspect of this new trend is the imposition of Ottoman hegemony on Pakistani society which is radically different culturally from the Turks. A troubling development of these out of context plays is their presentation of Jews and Christians as the political foes or religious rivals. The pejorative portrayal of these religions is poison to the young and naïve audience of the entertainment industry. Ahmer Naqvi sees Ertugrul as part of a wider agenda. He says.
“There is definitely an element of the Pakistani state pushing a certain idea of Islamic history, that focuses on conquest and expansionism and that has a long history of being used as propaganda,”
Although Pakistan is closer to Turkey now which is a modern and secular country, the nation is searching for the roots of this friendship in the distant mythological past. Any drama is a cultural representation; we as a nation keep importing such products to probably cater to a void in our own national and historical identity.