Identity crisis is one of the most common of national dilemmas in the 21st century as youth of the world become more and more lost in the battle between Western and Eastern. Thankfully we have a rich history to get inspired from, writes Haleema Khalid as she places her bets on histro-tainment.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the 21st century has seen major shifts in socio-political, socio-cultural and socio-economic realms across the globe. Media, in particular, has emerged as a public perception engineering tool, introducing and shaping particular narratives by streamlining specific ideologies, such as the Western media’s portrayal of Muslims as terrorists.Efforts have been made to counter this anti-Muslim narrative, but unfortunately, the role of cinema and television on part of Muslims has not been visible enough in comparison to the Western media productions on historical accounts that indoctrinate and refresh their cultural legacy as well as imperialistic hegemonic discourse.
Even after independence, former colonies have been influenced by colonialists in various ways. Propagation of capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism using media have become neocolonial tools to maintain Imperialist hegemony
That has been particularly the case with colonialism. Even after independence, former colonies have been influenced by colonialists in various ways. Propagation of capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism using media have become neocolonial tools to maintain Imperialist hegemony over the ‘once-colonial’ states. Many Muslim states have realized this onslaught of foreign ideas of late and have used the power of media to generate counter-narratives in order to foster culturally relevant ideologies. Such have become the times that a majority of population in the Muslim world has become rather confused about its identity. Moreover, mass migration towards urban centers, rise of Arab Spring causing social imbalance, Islamic-secular divide, conflict and civil war has served as contributing factors to this identity crisis. Other reasons have added fuel to the fire, like nationalized and ethno-social adaptations, political conspiracies, colonial/post-colonial descriptions and pop-culture. All these factors combined have created an urge in the affected populace to explore historical accounts in search of an identity. In fact, one cannot suppress the urge to want something one can relate with morally and spiritually far from the hue and cry of modern dogmatism.
One such example of rejuvenating cultural identity and reviving pride in a people’s history by counteracting the exploits of the Western media can be seen in how Turkish television has banked on the rich Muslim history to create programs that only entertain, but also narrate the tales of a glorious history.The new genre has been aptly termed histro-tainment, and can be seen as a combination of history and entertainment to provide historical fictionalization through media entertainment industry.
One prime and highly successful rendition in this genre is “Dirilius: Ertugrul”, which has become a runaway success particularly in the Muslim world owing to the depiction of Muslim ideals, values and norms the way they need to be depicted for restoring Pan-Islamic Muslim identity. The protagonist, Ertugrul, is something the Ummah has been yearning for. The most striking thing the series has succeeded in achieving is the phenomenal shift of popular power culture from the West to the East by providing the youth in general and the Muslim youth in particular with an ideal they can relate to on the religious grounds, thus, inculcating in them a sense of cultural reclamation based on the Pan-Islamic/Muslim ‘Self’.
The need of the hour for Pakistan is to jump aboard the bandwagon of histro-tainment and create content that glorifies our rich past and lets our rather confused youth be inspired from all that once made us great
Interestingly, the continuation of the series – Kurulus: Osman that details the establishment of the Ottoman Empire – comes at a time when Turkey’s “Treaty of Laussane” is approaching an end in 2023. This implies several things in relation to present times that need to be taken into consideration in case of Ummah. First and foremost being the absence of the Centre, Caliphate, is of greater significance. Secondly, the state of the Muslims as “Self”, which is subdivided, rather scattered into ‘sub-selves’ in front of the mighty. Last but not least, is the call for the Muslim unification by demonstrating the positives of the collective Muslim ‘Self’ based on the values of justice, compassion and freedom for the Muslims and the non-Muslims alike.Hence, the projected aspirations can be considered in terms of Pan-Islamic Cultural Reclamation on the part of the Muslims to resurrect Ummah, in particular to overcome the Muslim leadership deficit in the international socio-political context. Its significance can be traced in line with the Erdogan regime’s foreign policy based on Ittehad-e-Islam that aspired to confront Modern-Imperialists.
Considering histro-tainment as a genre, it can be considered that in the present age, media indoctrinates perceptual measures to influence public-pulse. Processes, movements, happenings and events do not take place in isolation. They are triggered either by the nature or by man. However, they in turn trigger certain chains of events that cannot be avoided.
Like the Muslim world in general, Pakistan in particular also suffers from the plague of an identity crisis as well as that of a polarized society. We have a rich history defined by Islamic values of justice, impartiality, upholding of law and continuous quest for knowledge. Sadly, we have veered away from all the good that we once possessed and descended into a seemingly unending abyss of mediocrity, imitation, lawlessness and more than most, moral corruption.The need of the hour for Pakistan is to jump aboard the bandwagon of histro-tainment and create content that glorifies our rich past and lets our rather confused youth be inspired from all that once made us great. The opportunity is there. But if we do not take it up with both hands, we might be more lost than ever before as a people and a nation.
Haleema Khalid is a poetess and researcher by nature and a TEFL qualified professional. She has been associated with the education sector in various roles, including as a teacher and trainer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org