Turkey is channeling its imperial past to assert its status as the ideological and cultural leader of the Muslim world
It is unlikely for an active Facebook user from South Asia not to have noticed a very prominent and spontaneous boom of local fan pages and laudatory groups dedicated to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this year.
These groups are replete with posts in various languages hailing him as “the flag-bearer of the ummah,” “my president,” “lion of Islam” and “leader of the Muslims.” Erdogan has earned great admiration from vast swaths of young Muslim zealots all over the world, especially in South Asia.
Google data show that the frequency of searches for the keyword “Ottoman” in Pakistan rose sharply this year. A sizable portion of this manifold increment is attributable to the immense popularity of a single Turkish historical-fiction TV Series titled Dirilis: Ertugrul (“Resurrection: Ertugrul”) in the country.
Pakistan apparently even beats Turkey itself hands-down in terms of interest in the series, if search-engine analytics are anything to go by. To be honest, with more than 12 times as many search queries, even “beats” is an underwhelming description. Outside of the Arab world, the show is also quite popular in Central Asia and parts of Africa.
Besides being phenomenal in its own right, it has piqued the populace’s interest in Turkish culture in general, and prompted millions to binge on a whole host of Turkish shows, from soaps to historical docudramas, even those that had completed their runs years earlier.