With the onset of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, much of the world went into lockdown mode as governments tried desperately to contain the spread of the virus. Locked up at home with nothing much to do, without jobs and hardly any work, web series and movies became the source of entertainment for those privileged enough to not face any immediate hardship. While Indians were glued to their television sets watching the Ramayana and Mahabharata, much of the Muslim world was drooling over Resurrection: Ertugrul, a Turkish television series based on the father of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty.
In fact, Ertugrul has broken all records in Pakistan. Engin Altan Düzyatan, who plays the lead in the series, even thanked the Pakistanis for their splendid effort and reportedly the cast of the series is planning a visit to Pakistan soon. The popularity of the television series has been such that local Pakistani entertainers are feeling threatened by the airing of Ertugrul in Pakistan.
Engin Altan Düzyatan, who played the lead role of #ErtugrulGhazi in the epic #Ertugrul has thanked the people of #Pakistan, for breaking all viewership records on YouTube & for the unprecedented response, and he wishes to soon come and meet amazing brothers and sisters of 🇵🇰❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/pw3PGL8BI3— Elif Ahmet 🇹🇷 (@ElifAhmetTurkey) May 18, 2020
The response from Pakistanis is not surprising given that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was cheer-leading for it. He claimed that the series will make Pakistanis learn about Islamic history and ethics.
Prime Minister Imran Khan shares his views over PTV telecast of famous Turkish drama serial Diriliş: Ertuğrul; it will make our youth learn about Islamic history and ethics pic.twitter.com/pymAPbJFLr— Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) April 24, 2020
Closer home, perennial fake news purveyor Rana Ayyub also found the time to re-watch the series with her family. She was all praises for it, unsurprisingly so.
Turkish “Resurrection: Ertugrul” series set to break YouTube record . I finished all five seasons early this year and now re-watching it with family. Special love for @eadksk who plays the title role. https://t.co/AnHbUHjBda— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) May 11, 2020
Rana Ayyub cannot stop talking about it.
If you have just discovered #Ertugrul remember we wrapped all the five seasons last year 😉— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) May 18, 2020
Ertugrul is a big-budget series that portrays the life of Ertugrul, the father Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. It was created by Mehmet Bozdağ and traces the origin of the Ottoman Empire. It is not surprising that Ertugrul has gained such popularity among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Muslims here have always held deep-seated respect for the ‘original’ Muslims, the Arabs and Turks. The Khilafat movement in the 20th Century was organised entirely in defence of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Pakistan, as the heir to the Khilafat Movement, is naturally obsessed with the Empire and with the endorsement of their Prime Minister, the show gained record-breaking popularity in the country. That the show gained popularity among Indian Muslims as well just goes on to highlight the beliefs of the section of the population.
One author writing for Al Jazeera commented on the manner in which the identity crisis of Pakistan has fuelled the popularity of the show in the country. He commented, “Deference to the ancient leaders of the Islamic world has always been part of Pakistan’s identity and often the root of its contradictory nature. Is Pakistan South Asian Muslim? Or is it based in Arab roots as some leaders have pushed? Or is it closer to Turkish culture in origin?” “At its heart, what Ertugrul represents in this scenario is a battle for the soul of the Islamic narrative and for Pakistan’s own self-image,” he said.
The case is similar for Indian Muslims as well. Their penchant for denying their Hindu heritage leaves them open to satisfy their identity crisis by looking up to the Turks and the Arabs. Some of them are taking offence to the manner in which Islamic barbarians have been portrayed in Indian movies and claim that the Islamic invaders looked like the Turkish actor. All of this confirms the identity crisis they suffer from.
On social media, it can be observed that Muslims of the Indian subcontinent claim they are of Arab heritage or Turkish heritage while some of them also claim they are of ‘Aryan’ descent. Such schizophrenic notions of one’s heritage perhaps explains why often enough, their leaders are more zealots than Arabs themselves. While the zealotry of the latter is more sophisticated, the former’s bigotry is often unfiltered. However, Turkish and Arab regimes consider them inferior to themselves and they are never given an equal seat at the table despite their persistent groveling.