By Asad Askari
Emotions are a dominant part of the human psyche. They play a significant role in our decision making, and in shaping our mindset. There are people with strong emotional capabilities and then there are emotional fools. Rest lies in the middle, who often wander between the emotional phases and juggle their perspectives and judgments. However, this is still a normal human tendency that every human on the Earth possesses and advances accordingly.
The problem is not the people and their emotional capabilities, but those who manipulate them. This is altogether a different set of humankind. These people, or at times a group of people, go all the way to do it at the expense of humanity, in the name of values, honour, religion, ideology, country, etc. In contemporary times, it is mostly being done for lost pride and lost dominance.
There are techniques to do it at a personal level and tools for the mass level. The visual medium is the most popular and effective among them.
There is a series in re-running around the world after having crossed the language barriers from Turkish to English to Urdu to even several European languages, named Diliris: Ertugrul in its native language and Resurrection: Ertugrul in English. In the Indian subcontinent, it is called Ertugrul Ghazi. Ghazi is a word of Arabic origin which means a person who struggles in the path of the religion. The series portrays a Turkish tribesman’s journey from being a common nomad fighter to an instrumental element in establishing the great Ottoman Empire.
The show that is accepted and cherished as a historical drama is heavily based on fiction, imagination, and daydreaming. It looks like that fact doesn’t matter much for the show’s creators. Mehmet Bozdag, the creator of the show says, “There is very little information about the period we are presenting — not exceeding 4-5 pages. Even the names are different in every source. The first work written about the establishment of the Ottoman State was about 100-150 years later. There is no certainty in this historical data… we are shaping a story by dreaming.” He believes, “…History has a soul”.
History has a very little of Ertugrul. His patronage is also a debatable subject, as there are two names as the claimant; Suleyman Shah and Gunduz Alp. Ahmed Cevdet Pasha (1822-1895) and several other historians back Suleyman Shah based on 15th-century historian Asikpasazade’s version, which became the official one. On the other hand, Enveri’s Dustur-name (1465) vouches for Gunduz Alp. Also, the discovery of a coin that has the name of Osman I as ‘Osman bin Ertugrul bin Gunduz Alp’ raises questions. [P. 35, Ottoman History: Misperceptions and Truths, Amhed Akgunduz-Said Ozturk].
Despite its lack of accuracy, the fan following it has garnered, is resolved to take it as actual history. A load of the web-savvy is going crazy for its cast and characters all over the social media. Parents are naming their newborns Erturgul. His statue has recently been erected in Lahore and there are demands by the locals to name a square after him. Above all, a large section of the Muslim population around the globe is taking it as the revival movement of lost Islamic pride. People are praising and thanking Turkey for making them aware of their history while there is near to no-history in it.
Looking at the impact of the series, it is easily understandable that it has served its agenda. The Muslim world, after the unveiling of Saudi Arabian hypocrisy towards Islam under American tutelage, is left with a vacuum for the leadership. Erdogan sees this as an opportunity. He is presenting himself as the new leader wearing the mask of Turkish pride. He wants to lock the chance. His regular visits to the sets and filming locations confirm his interest in the series. There are reports of Mehmet Bozdag’s connection with Erdogan’s fundamentalist party, APK, also. The series demanded a lot in the making, so much so that the stunt team from Hollywood was employed to bring in the perfection. The production of Game of Thrones– like 150 episodes running roughly two hours originally for five seasons spanning over five years, must have incurred big-budget requirements. Erdogan is certainly serving the cause of Islam.
While Erdogan longs for the revival of the Caliphate, he wants the Muslim world to forget about his long friendship with America and Israel. Turkey has the Israeli embassy on its land. Both the countries have enjoyed good diplomatic, economic, and trade relations and have hosted each other’s officials. Erdogan himself has been on an official visit to Israel in 2015. He has threatened to break off his ties after the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but still has not materialized it. Still, he is living the nostalgia of 600 years of Turkish Caliphate over the Muslim world. Turkey is also a NATO member, not to forget. It seems to be a deliberate effort to paint Turkey’s image after developments in world politics, this decade.
The maker of this mammoth show has claimed that the series is an answer to Islamophobia. It presents Islam with the true essence, maintaining its values and sanctity. However, the series indirectly serves an infamous fact that Islam was spread with the sword. The wars and religious struggles under Prophets Muhammad’s (PBUH) supervision presents a very different picture of war ethics. He strictly prohibited even harm to plants and livestock in the battle-field, let alone unarmed and fleeing soldiers. The caliphs and kings who gained the power in the name of Islam, ignored its teachings and essance, nonetheless.
No Muslim ruler was free from hypocrisy and unethical tactics to secure their territory and there should be no pride in it.
In a parallel world, some Islamic organizations have issued Fatwas (religious order) against the series on the grounds of modesty and demeaning shari’ah. Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah (one of the Middle East’s oldest and most influential bodies responsible for issuing fatwas, or religious edicts) claims Erdogan has sinister plans to influence the Arab world and eventually conquer them, thus, should be banned.
A Pakistan based religious organization, Jamia Binnori, claims, “The series contains messages of love that are unethical for Muslims and people don’t necessarily need to know about”.
Indonesia based Indian hardliner, Zakir Naik, says, “There are women without hijaab in the series, there is music in it, there are certain things in the series which go against a Muslim’s aqeed’ah, therefore, it is not fully permissible in Islam.” He deems it forbidden, further saying, “There are no kissing scenes or lovemaking scenes in the series like those Bollywood or Hollywood films, the bigger harams, but yes, there are certain things which make it Haraam. Therefore, someone who is not watching Ertugrul, I will say not to watch it because it is Haraam.”
Saudi Arabia has launched its counter drama series ‘Mamalik el-Nar’ translated as ‘Kingdoms of Fire’. The show aims at uncovering the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Ottoman Empire towards the Arabs. They have gone a step further roping-in Hannibal Rising fame Hollywood director Peter Webber. Saudi Arabia can not stand Turkey having an upper hand so easily. They hold an old grudge against Ottomans, for they were the one to usurp Ottomans from the Arabian Gulf. Along with Saudi Arabia entering the production of propaganda series, the game is going to get interesting. They have already been playing with the emotions of Muslims in the name of the Holy Kaaba and Mosque of the Prophet. Their wrongdoings were ignored and went unchecked by the majority of Muslims simply because the ruler is labeled as ‘Custodian of Two Holy Mosques’, no matter how they have been serving the anti-Islamic forces all along.
These series neither should be taken as a history class nor be banned from viewing. The audience should understand that history must be seen as a grey area. Its characters can not be painted in black or white. The world needs peace, and no revival movement can guarantee that. Series or movies like Resurrection: Ertugrul must be taken for entertainment purposes only.
Meanwhile, the series has been estimated to hit around $1 billion in revenue by 2023 and a sequel, ‘Kurulus: Osman’ or ‘Founder: Osman’ (based on Ertugrul’s son Osman, the founder of the Ottoman empire) has already started airing.