Ertugul, Identity Crisis, History and Patriotism

Since the Turkish Series ‘Ertugrul’ started airing in Pakistan on the national television, on the recommendation of our Honourable Prime Minister Imran Khan, it has stirred up a debate on foreign heroes, foreign content, identity crisis, and how this relates to our history and patriotism. Identity crisis, history and patriotism are three separate terms but these three terms are so interdependent in the current cultural and socio political scenario that their significance has never been so crucial.

Being a former British colony, we are still dealing with the left overs of the British raj and colonialism. British used every means and ways to strip the identity and self-respect of the people of the Indian subcontinent. The mindset and the psyche that they instilled in our society is still reminiscent of the British Raj, where they vociferously established that they were the superior culture, race and a society with higher human values as compared to the ‘benighted’ Indian citizens. Unfortunately this mindset still exits and is subconsciously passed on generation after generation, leaving us as a nation with low ‘amour propre’.

English still being the Official language of Pakistan is evocative of the dominancy of the British era. The lack of policy, planning, and vision in the education sector has bifurcated it into public schools and the private school systems, which have led to a huge class divide and divaricated the social strata. It has led to the private school systems advocate and capitalize on the same psyche and propagate learning in English and English language as the only means for success and accomplishment. This English learning system and the learning of English language has engendered the English / western socio cultural practices in our generations and has left them alienating themselves with our own roots, culture and religion. In fact they find pride and approval of their intellect and success by associating themselves with the American / Western culture. The increasing use of western attire, slangs, and lifestyle is leaving us with an identity crisis. Other factors such as the removal of subjects and topics of Pakistan studies in the primary grades in the private education system, has added another dent to our national heritage pertaining to identifying our national historical heroes for our younger generations. The famous words by Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859) “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” bespeaks the British supercilious mentality and how they had not supported the tradition of Muslim and Hindu education and the publication of literature in the native tongues of SanskritPersian, and Arabic.

With the bombardment of the cultural war, also referred to as the 5th generation warfare through conventional and social media, loss of our own cultural, social and moral values are on the decline like never before. The overwhelming influence of western media, may it be in forms of social media, Hollywood movies, or other mediums, have brought concomitant social, cultural and moral problems for us a nation This subconsciously has created a disposition that has seeped into our social sphere and hence often leads our youth astray from our roots, lineage, ancestral identity, social moral values as it creates feelings of estrangement in the minds of our youth for our own cultural identity and socio cultural practices as it denotes of being inferior. Thus creating the dilemma of identity crisis relating to not being able to identify and relate to our own historical figures.

And this is where the significance of history comes into place. Often referred to as just a boring subject which studies dates and event of the past, yet history is important for understanding human evolution and how we got here. History establishes our roots and provides us solid footing to our identity and where we came from and how we got where we are.

Yet now a days we often witness that political governments and media houses often distort historical facts, by misstating and misreporting. The western media appears to be biased and on a planned campaign to distort facts and project the facts in such a manner that portray their racial, cultural, social and national superiority. There is no doubt that the west has considerable and significant contributions to science and technology yet the progenitors of the modern day sciences were in many cases, Muslims. But these historical facts are often never brought to light by the media. Therefore it is highly important to report, reiterate, remind, remember our past heroes, our roots and ancestors that make us who we are. It is to create the sense of pride and self-worth as a society, as a nation and as a country. Because in the absence of our historic heroes our generation often ends up confiding in the western celebrities, social and political figures, which may not be a bad thing, but being knowledgeable of who you are as a group of people is of the utmost importance for the survival and success of a nation.

Pakistan as a nation has the most diverse diaspora, which includes the descendants of the Indo Aryans, Mongols, to the Mughals, Afghans, Turks, Persians, Central Asians, Arabs, Afro-Asians and all the way to Eastern Europeans which followed the army of Alexander the Great. This makes the history so diversified and leaves us with a multitude of heroes and cultural values to let us relate to them. And hence perhaps it adds to the dilemma of the identity crisis, however this diversified ancestral history becomes our strength.

Now in the midst of all this invasion of foreign media content on our TV and film screens, and the issue of identity crisis, Prime Minister decided to counter the 5th generation cultural warfare by the airing of the Turkish TV series “Diriliş Ertuğrul”. A Historical fiction series which is the story of the founding fathers of the Ottoman Empire that lasted more than 6 centuries. It showcases the roots of Ottoman Empire and how the faith in Allah helps you kiss success in both the world and hereafter.

Now many have questioned how does this belong to us? When we try to sum up all the criticism regarding the airing of this TV series, we come up with 2 key objections. First, many pseudo intellectuals, either celebrities or journalists have been highly critical of this TV series as they argue that these don’t relate to our history and our culture and hence are not our heroes. The second key objection being the identity crisis and this nation and our people not having any identity of their own and yet they try and associate themselves with anything and everything that is trending. It’s like whichever way the wind blows, they go along and having no footing of their own as a nation.

Here is my take on this.

Humans are social animals as described by Aristotle and it is human nature to relate itself to a group, culture, religion, traditions etc. Being Muslims, we always relate to our Muslim Brethren everywhere in the world. Our religion binds us together as said by our beloved Holy Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) that ‘Muslim Umma is like a body, if one part gets hurt, the whole body feels the pain’. Likewise any accomplishment achieved in the Muslim Umma regardless of what part of the world, the Muslims around the world feel the same sense of accomplishment. This was evident at the time when Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests. The Muslims around the globe cheered in celebration.

We follow the sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his daily life style and activities which obviously were according to the Arab lifestyle and culture. Now does that make us also have an identity loss? Islam originated in the Arabian Peninsula, as a religion and has a cultural influence of the Arabs but wherever it is practiced across the globe assimilates into the local cultures. So if we were to argue that the Ottomans are not our heroes and not related to us, one may also argue, is one also not to relate to Prophet Muhammad or any of the Arabian cultural practices that he lived by, because they were not indigenous to our local culture and geographical area? The answer is, of course not. As a Muslim we follow what our Prophet practiced and preached and our faith is what relates us to him and Arab culture. Likewise Islam binds us with our Turkish brethren, relates us to them and hence any Muslim historic figures, may it be Mahmud of Ghazni, Salah ud Din or Ertugrul.

Why did Imran Khan think that it was of significance to show it in Pakistan? Seeing is believing and for the same reason I feel, that our people especially younger generation are not being told and reminded about the History of the Muslims. In a time when our children and youth’s minds are imbued with violent video games, morally degenerate cartoons, Hollywood and Bollywood vulgarity and a false sense of contentment through Social media apps such as Instagram, FaceBook and others, it was a desperate need of the hour to redirect their energies into something that gives them a sense of belonging. That is precisely why our Prime minister felt the need to telecast it on national television to let our youth and masses in general make knowledgeable of the history and try and curb the overwhelming influx of western media and its subsequent effects on our moral social fiber. With a literacy rate of approximately 59%, where poverty, lack of access to education and logistics keep almost half of our population uneducated, illiterate and unaware of our history, Television and internet is the medium that is the best use of technology to reach to millions and to educate them about our history. And that too in the form of entertainment.

Lastly, even if we need to emphasize on making productions that showcase our own indigenous historic heroes and figures, but as Muslims we relate to any accomplishment and success achieved by another Muslim and hence Ottoman Empire was a prideful era that a lot of Muslims around the globe associated themselves to. It is of high significance to learn about history in general and the history that binds us as Muslims, in our faith that led the Turks to a dominant glorious era. Consequently the production and airing of documentaries and TV or film series about other significant successful Muslim Historic figures that educate us about our magnificent past and give us a sense of pride and self-actualization, is the demand of the hour.

Patriotism to me is not just having feelings of devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country but also of being aware of our ancestral identity, roots, not just in terms of as a race and ethnicity but also religion. Now we as Pakistanis may not be related to the Ottomans historically in terms of geography and ethnically, generally speaking, but our faith is that binds us together. The faith that unites the Muslim Umma, relates us to Ertugrul, the Ottoman Empire and their successors. On that account, I am of the thought that the vision and the decision of airing of “Diriliş Ertuğrul” comes at the perfect time to counter the cultural, moral-social degeneration of our youth and children, give them reasons to connect with their history in terms of faith, make them relate and associate to the celebrated and distinguished past as a Muslim Umma and to make them vaunt the triumphs of our Muslim historical figures. And that to me creates another version of Patriotism.

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1 reply added

  1. Sidra ahmad June 12, 2020

    Much needed piece of writing in crisis. Well done

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