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Pan-Islamic Yearnings And Pakistan’s Newfound Love For Ertugrul

These days a Turkish series that draws upon some historical themes is the talk of the town in Pakistan, from national TV to social media websites.

Ertugrul Gazi was the father of Osman (Ottoman), the latter being the warlord who laid the foundations of the Ottoman caliphate. On the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Television (PTV) aired a Turkish drama from the 1st of this Ramazan. With the passage of time, a hype was created on social media about this series.

Both liberals and conservatives have their own concerns about this series. The concept popularized by the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and supporters is that by knowing “our” rich and brave “history”, we will able to conquer and rule the world once again.

On the other hand right-wing voices on Pakistani social media appear to have been criticizing Engin Altan Düzyatan (who plays the role of Ertugrul’s character) and Esra Bilgic (Haleema Sultan) on their social media accounts, claiming that simply by living their normal lives in modern Turkey, they are distorting the image of great and heroic characters of “our history”. Esra is being harassed more than Engin: through disrespect and abusive comments on her recent Instagram posts. Some fake accounts are also circulating on social media, using  the names of the Turkish stars. They are impersonating especially Bilgic, depicting her as thankful to “the Pakistani nation” and especially to controversial Pakistani TV religious figure Aamir Liaquat, while promising she will soon visit Pakistan.

It appears that a number of viewers are unable to distinguish between historical-themed fantasy as depicted on Turkish TV and real contemporary life.

Another thing that many Pakistani conservatives forget is that the Ottoman Empire and its founding fathers are poor representatives of “our culture”. The real-life historical relations between the Ottoman Empire and, say, the court of Tipu Sultan in Mysore were far from the fantasy of Muslim unity that Pakistani TV viewers want to see. In any case, the Ottoman empire was a military empire like many others of its time – meaning that the blood of many people was on its hands, irrespective of race or creed. Pakistani viewers seem to need reminding that many in the Arab world have a less rosy picture of the Ottoman imperial past.

Most importantly, while there is nothing wrong with pan-Islamic sentiments, Pakistani viewers of the Turkish show would do well to remember their own founding fathers’ ambivalent, even critical relationship, to romantic pan-Islamic politics.

Both Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal, founding fathers of Pakistan, showed little interest in the Khilafat movement after World War I.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is a great fan of Allama Muhammad Iqbal along with a majority of Pakistanis, ought to be informed that Iqbal was a fan of Mustafa Kemal, not the Ottoman rulers.

So it might be necessary for the Pakistani PM and ordinary viewers who find “Islamic values” in the Turkish show to clear their mind: are they sure who they uphold as heroes? Are Mr. Jinnah and Allama Iqbal their heroes or the semi-mythical Ertugrul? We know for a fact that the founding fathers of Pakistan supported the Turkish Kemalists – who PM Imran Khan might today call “khooni liberals”.

The Turkish TV show may be great watching for entertainment, but the PM should be cautious about promoting it for anything beyond that.



  1. Bashy Quraishy May 19, 2020

    Dear Mr. Zeeshan Awan

    Your article; Pan-Islamic Yearnings And Pakistan’s Newfound Love For Ertugrul is a strange twisting of historical facts to your own ideological agenda. Here is my take on that.
    1. The TV series Ertugrul is not meant to appeal to Muslims across the world that you call; Pan-Islamic Yearnings but is meant for Turks in Turkey and around the world who are very proud of their roots, especially the Ottoman Empire.
    2. As far as the Khilafat movement, Muslims in Hindustan did support it and gave generous donations to Turks to repel foreign invasion. Whenever, I am in Turkey, my friends remind me of the help, they received during Turkey’s hour of need.
    3. Why it is bad to like a Turkish TV series depicting history and not say a word about the Hollywood, Bollywood and other nonsense that Pakistanis are daily bombarded. I think that you and other elitists are against this series because PM Imran Khan has recommended it.
    4. Why are you calling Osman Ghazi as the warlord? He was the chief of one of the tribes in the eastern domain of the Byzantine Empire, in Anatolia. The tribe known as the Ottomans arose from one of the smaller emirates established in northwestern Anatolia after 1071. The dynasty was named after Osman Gazi (1259-1326).
    5. I am sure that you know about the background of Ottoman tribes that migrated from the central Asian steppe and were initially a nomadic people who followed a primitive shamanistic religion. Contact with various settled peoples led to the introduction of Islam and under Islamic influence, the Turks acquired their greatest fighting tradition, that of the Gazi warrior.

    Anyhow, I hope that you would let the Pakistanis enjoy a series, they like and not use your intellect in spoiling their joy.

    Kind regards

  2. Muslim May 20, 2020

    Naya Daur news forum is consist on those people who keep their own personal ideology which is far away the universal facts and truth.
    Zeeshan Awan has written this article which is totally baseless and anti-islamic ideology. Without any research such people are busy in twisting the historical facts.
    I can give you thousands of references where Iqbal is admiring Ottoman Empire and he was the one who cries when it collapsed.
    Mustafa Kamal is a hero of all deliberate liberals and thats why their is fire in your ass after release of this historical series in Pakistan.
    Shame on you and on your research and forged article.

  3. adeel May 20, 2020

    Allama Iqbal was never a fan of Mustafa Kemal. Whole Khilafat movement was to pressurize Britain to force Mustafa Kemal to restore the office of the caliph.When Ataturk declared the end of ottoman authority in 1923, Allama Iqbal wept that day and quietly supported a reconciliation between Turkish govt and the ottoman family which never mterialized. Three attempts were made between 1923 and 1931.
    Secondly Ertugrul was a bey not a warlord in reality. Beys are different in stature and their govt. functions are different. They are not war organizers, they look after the principality same as the dukes in Europe. They created healthy environment of arts and learning. Their language flourished. They created madarsas and mosques unkike what Afghan warlord does.


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