Why do some Pakistanis hate Drilis Ertugrul ?
Pakistani reaction to Ertugrul
Why do some Pakistanis hate Ertugrul ?
While Drillis Ertugrul ( or Ertugrul Ghazi in Urdu ) is breaking records on Youtube for Pakistani viewers , some Pakistanis have shown an outright reluctance if not suspicion of this incredibly popular Turkish serial. Average Pakistanis with no axe to grind have welcomed it as an entertaining serial that embraces the Islamic principles many in this conservative country hold dear. The reason some Pakistanis fear this show’s ascendency in the popular culture lies firstly in Pakistan’s own turbulent history and then in the internalized Islamophobia that has been fed into the mainstream of intellectual discourse since 911
Its easy to understand why Pakistani Liberals are wary of any show that in their view promotes religion . Islam is an overwhelming part of Pakistani society and any perceived insult or even discussion on a sensitive religious issue has led to blasphemy allegations, street marches , violence against minorities and even assassinations. After years of fighting of the scourge of religious fundamentalism started by the Zia ul Haq regime of the 80s and the violent blowback from fighting the American led “ war on terror” in next door Afghanistan that spilled into Pakistan, many have accepted the Western narrative that Islam itself is the reason for the breakdown of civil society .
Before the Zia regime banned Pakistani films as “unIslamic “ Pakistan had a strong, innovative film industry , that rivalled India’s giant film industry Bollywood. This left a huge cultural vacuum which was quietly filled with pirated Bollywood films which apart from a few “Art films “ like all film industries promoted a rosy image of its own culture, and the Indian myth of a strong secular democracy . Post Partition most Pakistanis had lost touch with Indian religious traditions and Bollywood fed into this with its wonderful , colorful world of romance and dance , sterilized of caste privilege , religious and social inequalities that are endemic to India.
This myth of a secular India was also promoted by Indian intellectuals and liberals ,not to mention fawning Western media that praised the “World’s largest democracy “ and its rapid economic growth as a market for their goods . Even now the objections of many Pakistani liberals curiously echo Indian talking points that :
“ Pakistan has no Identity “
or “Pakistan is denying its own roots in the Indus valley civilization“ ,
and even casting average Pakistanis as shadows seeking substance from borrowed cultural mores. This despite the fact that post-independence India has sought to deny and erase 1000 years of history and cultural fusion with Muslims. This slow cultural erosion in Pakistan has been further exacerbated by the push for progress and the use of English as the language of intellectual discourse . The deep and longstanding links between the Muslims of pre-Partition Hindustan , the Ottomans and the beautiful diversity of Islamic heritage lie forgotten in dusty old photographs and books that most of us don’t have time to read or cannot read.
Indian Muslims are under attack in an India fast moving towards a theocratic state or Hindu Rashtra . Indian Muslims and Kashmiris in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir have also developed a unique love for the serial while living under the persecution of the state sanctioned violence of Hindu militias linked to the ruling BJP, the Indian police and Indian army . Kashmiris under internet lockdown have found hope and spiritual strength in this Turkish serial that no Indian or Pakistani drama has been able to deliver. The story of the Oghuz Turks in Ertugrul Gazi is one of resistance and rebellion at the crossroads of Empires , and resonates with the beleaguered Muslims of Kashmir and Palestine as they resist settler- occupation projects as they face disposession in their own lands .
While the left worries about Islamist insurgencies , the Pakistani Right and actual Islamists are also worried . Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik has condemned Ertugrul Gazi ,as have some other extreme right , Arab centered sources accusing the show of promoting an Ottoman agenda and Turkish culture over what they define as Islamic principles . There might just be an edge of truth to those objections too , just like Bollywood romanticizes India, Ertugrul is a highly fictionalized, streamlined account of Ottoman prehistory. The way Ertugrul and other characters are presented as deeply moral and spiritual are more writer Mehmet Bozdag’s literary creations than strict truth.
There is a third perhaps even more aggrieved party to this group of objectors and that is the Pakistani Film and Drama industry , who feel they cannot compete with big budget foreign productions and have fought before to ban outside content. While its necessary to nurture any home-grown industry , especially one as popular as Pakistani Dramas, it is also easy to fall into stagnation without competition or innovation .The Pakistani entertainment industry must ask itself some hard questions to improve instead of pointing fingers and assigning blame to everyone except their own drive to produce stereotypical, commercial style dramas that don’t inspire.
On a recent Facebook live celebrating Eid films , Riyaad Minty the digital director at TRT world stated TRT’s mission to be the channel for the next generation of viewers and to provide content for the audiences that have taken to Drillis Ertugrul. Turkish Radio and Television is Turkey’s state media and Minty spoke of how easy the recent collaboration with Pakistan’s state Television channel PTV in Dubbing and formatting Drillis Ertugrul into Urdu to become Ertugrul Ghazi had been. Minty spoke about an audience that has long been ignored, but with the digital age democratizing access to entertainment that silent majority could now be catered to. TRT plans on capitalizing on this new market. This should also be an opportunity for Pakistani producers too if they can make the effort and rise up to meet that challenge of this new age of international media.