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‘Ertugrul’ Is A Propaganda Series Meant To Brainwash Naive Minds

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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.

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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.

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2 Comments

  1. Hshshshs May 17, 2020

    Dear Saima,
    With all due respect 15% of Pakistan’s population consists of ethnic Afghans. That’s even more than in Afghanistan itself. Ahmad shah Durrani was born in Multan, Punjab and his capital was Peshawar. Most of the present day Pashtuns in the the greater peshawar valley migrated to this area only after the 15th century. You understand where I’m going with this right. You should not alienate a very big section of the Pakistani society by writing such things. I agree with you on ertugul being Turkish propaganda but that doesn’t mean you force us to disown our history and identity. Pakistan is very diverse and it’s not only made up of Punjab and Sindh, please give space to other ethno-linguistic groups too. You’re claim that Muhammad bin qasim was a foreign warrior stems from the fact that raja Dahir was a Sindhi hero. Give the same respect to the Afghan kings too. We are still a young nation and have a long way to go to become truly a nation and such debates are healthy as they our going to be for the better in the long run but with that same argument none of the indian kings or the mughals were our own. Pakistan was made up of a part of Afghanistan and India, by land area, most of Pakistan was a part of Afghanistan. Please accept the diversity in our country as that is what makes it beautiful.

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  2. L July 12, 2020

    It’s a big propaganda piece, but the quality of Pakistani tv and shows is so so so low, that it’s not wonder that Pakistani fall in love with anything that is better than their own dramas. The history, the clothes, nothings is accurate in this serie, and the christian are depicted as some kind of ugly vampires with everything good and noble being Turkish and the rest of the world as bestial things. Very laugable, and racist. If a play in any non Turkish country dared to show Turkish the way they depict other people, they will put some bombs probably.

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