Will Culture Wars Reshape Pakistan?

Cultural invasion of Pakistan is in full swing with Turkish schools and soap operas finding broad acceptance across the country. Local TV channels are airing soap operas dubbed in Urdu and Gülen movement is operating over a dozen schools in different parts of the country.

Turkish Entertainment: 

Since last summer,  channel Urdu1 has enjoyed top TV ratings with its multiple daily airings of the Turkish soap opera Ishq-e-Mamnu, or “Forbidden Love", according to the New York Times. Afraid of being left behind, Geo Entertainment, part of Pakistan's biggest media empire spawned by recent media revolution in the country, has joined the bandwagon with its prime-time airing of  Noor. It's a rags to riches story of a woman, and her adoring husband, played by the blue-eyed former model Kivanc Tatlitug.

Ishq-e-Mamnoon Cast Members
While the soaps depict a western lifestyle and deal with subjects that are considered taboo in Pakistan, they include characters with Muslim names which many Pakistanis can identify with. 

This latest trend contrasts sharply with what has been happening in the country for several decades.  Since 1980s, Pakistan's cultural transformation has been led, in part, by Pakistani workers traveling to and returning from Arab countries. These workers have brought with them Arab notions of Islamic piety and hard-line Wahabi beliefs to Pakistan. This phenomenon has contributed to the proliferation of radical madrassas funded by Saudi money in many parts of the country.

Arabs, seen as model Muslims by many Pakistanis, are themselves soaking up Turkish culture. Back in 2008, Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) bought Noor and broadcast it across the Arab world to win its hearts and minds. Now Turkish shows are dominating the Arab airwaves. Even Greece, traditional rival of Turkey, has become so hospitable to Turkish soaps that they "are gaining a worshipful following in Greece", according to Mary Andreou who writes for the Greek newspaper Adesmeftos Typos.

Magnificent Century – Turkey’s most popular and most talked-about but controversial soap is about the lavish lifestyle of Suleiman The Magnificent who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 at the height of its glory and is still revered as Kanuni, or Lawgiver. His empire included large parts of Eastern and Central Europe and the entire Middle East. It is watched in 43 countries by 200 million people, according to David Rohde in The Atlantic. The Hurriyet reports that Turkish soap opera exports have grown from US$1 million in 2007 to nearly US$100 million today. Around a hundred different Turkish serials are exported in dubbed or subtitled form to North Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

Turkish Education:

In Pakistan, Turkish presence extends beyond television entertainment; there's a network of Turkish schools being operated by Gülen Movement, a transnational religious, social, and possibly political movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. It's been described by  New York Times as  coming "from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam". Currently, Gulen Pakistan is operating 14 Pak-Turk schools serving over 3000 students in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Khairpur, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.

Pak-Turk School, Jamshoro, Pakistan
 In a CBS 60 Minutes segment last year, here's how correspondent Leslie Stahl described Gulen schools in the United States: "Over the past decade scores of charter schools have popped up all over the U.S., all sharing some common features. Most of them are high-achieving academically, they stress math and science, and one more thing: they're founded and largely run by immigrants from Turkey who are carrying out the teachings of a Turkish Islamic cleric: Fethullah Gulen". CBS report said Gulen schools in the United States have 20,000 students enrolled with 30,000 more on waiting list. The growing popularity of Turkish charter schools has drawn suspicion and criticism of various groups in the United States.


Growing Turkish influence in Pakistan has its critics. Local actors and producers decry the new competition of Turkish soaps for "destroying our society".  Others see as part of the American conspiracy. Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey, was warned by a mosque near where he works never to return wearing a tie, according to a news report.


Today's Turkey is a modern democratic and secular state run by moderate Islamists. It is seen by many Muslims, including Pakistani Muslims, as a model pluralist society that offers many lessons for the rest of the Islamic world.  But it has many detractors as well. For example, there is significant resistance to growing Turkish cultural and educational influence in Pakistan.  The Turkish influence is still small but rising rapidly, and the resistance from entrenched orthodoxy is increasing with it. It does offer hope as an anti-dote to the  radical Saudi influence that is at least partly responsible for growing violence in Pakistan. While I do see signs of hope with the emergence of Turkey as model for Pakistan and other Muslim countries, only time will tell as to how this culture war unfolds to shape Pakistan's future. 

Here's a video clip of Ishq-e-Mamnoon:

Ishq E Mamnoon OST Title Song Full 720p HQ from Prince Mughal on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Turkey, Pakistan and Secularism

Pakistan Media Revolution

Violent Social Revolution in Pakistan

Clash of Ideas in Islam

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

 Silent Social Revolution in Pakistan

The Eclipse of Feudalism in Pakistan

Social and Structural Transformations in Pakistan

Malala Moment: Profiles in Courage-Not!

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia

Rising Economic Mobility in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Washington Post story on Taan, billed as Pakistan's answer to "Glee":

Starting in September, Pakistani TV stations will begin broadcasting what some have called the country’s “answer to Glee”: an envelope-pushing musical drama called “Taan,” set in a fictional Lahore high school.
If a peppy musical about misfit teenagers and their social/sexual escapades seems out of place in Pakistan, that’s because it is. Interviews with director Samar Raza tend to focus on the way the show can grapple with those issues like sexuality and teen romance without provoking the ire of Pakistan’s media censors — the same people who warned TV media earlier this year not to promote Valentine’s Day and once took an entire cable network off the air after it broadcast a Salman Rushdie interview.
Raza told Agence France-Presse, for instance, that the show suggests a homosexual relationship through innuendo and conversation among the characters. (Homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan.) It will also tackle Pakistan’s religious and sectarian violence: One of the characters is described as an extremist who initially planned to blow the music school up — before getting into music, of course. Another main character is a Christian whose girl family was massacred in the 2009 riots at Gojra, an actual event that heightened interfaith tensions for weeks.
“Music is the only thing that can unite this country,” one of the show’s actors, Hassan Niazi, told The Telegraph. (The BBC also has some more behind-the-scenes interviews, and a few shots from the program, in this video.)
But it’s not as though Pakistan has shied away from controversy on TV. Pakistani dramas, often filmed in Lahore and modeled on Indian shows, have addressed child abuse, divorce and incest, Pakistani journalist Kamal Siddiqi told the Times of India for a feature on Pakistani TV last year. One of the country’s most popular domestic soaps, a family drama called “Humsafar,” revolved around a cast of willful women — and gave plenty of screentime to issues like divorce and mental illness.

Foreign imports from Turkey and India are also wildly popular in Pakistan. As the New York Times reported in January, the country’s most watched Turkish soap, appropriately titled “Forbidden Love,” follows the adventures of the rich and promiscuous as they fall in and out of love triangles and otherwise sordid relationships. (The video below, a slow-mo compilation of meaningful glances from the show, is absolutely worth watching.) Critics have slammed the show as vulgar and un-Islamic, but it’s still on-air....
Taan will fortunately have no problems there: The show was filmed in Lahore, and its creators have licensed more than 100 classic Pakistani songs for the “Glee” treatment. Now Raza and his crew need only hope that their bold storylines receive the same kind of reception Glee, a rule-breaker in its own right, got in the U.S. According to Nielsen, he show raked in more than 8 million viewers during its last season.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Idol show launched by GeoTV.

One of the most popular talent shows in the world has come to Pakistan. The Geo Entertainment Network officially launched ‘Pakistan Idol’ on Wednesday.

The globally celebrated singing talent show has attracted 460 million viewers worldwide since it was launched in 2003.

Speaking to reporters at the launching ceremony, Imran Aslam, the president of the Geo TV Network, said Pakistan had a history of producing talented musicians across genres. The Geo Network’s endeavour to bring forth talented musicians is a step towards keeping that cherished tradition alive.

“The Idol will be a platform for people who sing in private, in the bathroom or in small family gatherings. We will bring them together and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their hidden talent,” he said. “From among them, the people will choose one voice that will reign in our hearts.”

The auditions for Pakistan Idol will start in Islamabad from Thursday (today) and the judges (who have not been named yet) will travel to various other cities to spot talent, including Quetta and Peshawar.

Asif Raza Mir, the managing director of Geo Entertainment, said the network was aware that there were security problems in Quetta and Peshawar, but the two cities were equally important.

“So we will provide our contestants, judges and crewmembers with security,” he added.

The eligibility age for the participants is between 15 and 30 years old.

The reason for this, Asif explained, was to encourage youngsters in the first-ever Pakistani Idol.

“We have a number of plans for the future. We will hopefully come up with Child Idol and another show for people aged between 30 and 60 years.”

About the possible inducements in store, Asif said the canvas for a Pakistani singer was not restricted to within the borders as many had craved a niche for themselves in the Indian entertainment industry.

“When the show was first launched in the UK, the prizes that were offered were not the same as they are today; things happened gradually. But we will certainly provide the winner with the opportunity to sing for the Pakistani film industry which is growing with each passing day.”

The sponsors also spoke on the occasion. ‘Idols’, co-owned by Fremantle Media and 19 Entertainment, is one of the most successful entertainment formats in the world.

It was first aired in the UK as Pop Idol in 2001 and immediately became a worldwide phenomenon with local variations in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and South America airing 199 series across 46 territories and attracting upwards of a staggering 6.5 billion votes worldwide.

Riaz Haq said…
#Turkey asks #Pakistan to shut Pak-Turk schools run by #Gulen via @firstpost


Turkey has asked Pakistan to shut all institutions being run by Fethullah Gulen -- the US-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of masterminding and backing the 16 July failed military coup attempt in that country, a media report said on Saturday.

“We have called on all friendly countries to prevent activities of this (Gulen’s) group,” Dawn news online quoted Turkish Ambassador Sadik Babur Girgin as saying here at a media briefing on developments in Turkey.
He said the Turkish government had "solid evidence" that Gulen’s movement was behind the plot.
In Pakistan, Gulen runs a network of about 21 schools and Rumi Forum -- an intellectual and intercultural dialogue platform, in addition to having business stakes. His organisations and businesses have been operating in Pakistan for decades, Dawn news online reported.
Noting that Gulen had a “big presence in Pakistan”, Girgin said that Turkey was in close contact with Pakistani authorities. “We have had good cooperation with Pakistan in every field.”
The Turkish government has sought Gulen’s extradition from the US, and said the evidence asked by the US had been provided to the American authorities.
Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2013, when Erdogan accused him of promoting corruption scandals against his government.
Since then, the Turkish government has included the influential cleric on its list of most wanted terrorists and sought his extradition for judicial trial that could result in life imprisonment.

Riaz Haq said…
Liberal #Islam is not the answer to #ISIS. #secularism #liberalism http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/philosophy/liberal-islam-is-not-the-answer-to-islamic-state … via @prospect_uk

"Forged in the age of empire in the 19th-century, one of the central paradoxes of liberalism has been its propagation of universal concepts in the service of particular interests. In the 19th-century Muslim world, these interests were defined largely by British imperial concerns. Today, liberal values are defined more broadly as stemming from a shared western heritage reaching back for legitimisation, as the British colonialists often did, to antiquity. Classical economic liberalism has recently even been prescribed as a panacea for both the Muslim world’s civilisational underdevelopment and its problems with extremism by the American scholar and policy adviser Vali Nasr and the Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol

For Nasr and Akyol, Muslim liberalism is a happy coincidence between the values of Islam and those of the west. But such Muslim liberals grasp for connections between Islam and the west through a modern ideology which by its nature has no provenance in the Muslim world. In this way, liberal Islam’s relationship to the west becomes parasitic rather than based on any elective affinity. This is why the more that Muslim liberals aim for synthesis, the more their faith is seemingly diminished.

Liberal Islam’s third problem is its preoccupation with the idea of defining a “true” Islam that excludes or even labels as heretics or non-Muslims those who don’t adhere to this perceived consensus.

Perhaps the most popular response to Islamist extremism has been to reiterate the idea that the majority of Muslims are moderate. The problem here is not that most Muslims are not moderate (they are) but that projects encouraging Muslim moderation can be used against minorities, including within Islam, because they involve a process of “orientalising” others. This has been evident in the British government’s fostering of “moderate” Islam through its Prevent policy agenda for over a decade and its promotion of Britishness in more recent years—strategies which arguably have both divided Muslims and alienated them from wider society, especially those with conservative beliefs.

This mode of “othering” in the name of moderation also conflates extremism with heresy. So similar arguments about being beyond the pale of “mainstream” Islam can be applied to both terrorists like IS and those on the margins of Islam who may disagree with established forms of religious authority, or simply represent the wrong sect. It also ties together the will to marginalise dissent to the need for more authoritarian forms of leadership: witness the strange sight of western governments bolstering traditional Islamic centres of authority such as Al Azhar in Egypt—an institution whose legitimacy has been sustained by authoritarian governments."
Riaz Haq said…
Shahid Javed Burki Op Ed in Express Tribune

.... Large workers’ migration to the Middle East began in the mid-seventies. This was the time when construction booms began in the countries that had windfall gains in their incomes as a result of the several-fold increase in the price of exported oil. Since that time, I estimate that half a trillion dollars of remittances were sent by the workers to their families who stayed back in Pakistan. The Middle Eastern countries did not allow the workers to bring in their families. They were brought in on limited-time contracts and new recruits replaced those returning. Most of those who came were poor but the money they sent back made it possible for their families to graduate to the middle class status. My guess is that this social transformation involved at least 5 million households or 20 to 25 million people.

Pakistani sociologists need to study this new middle class,in particular their location, aspirations, and demands. K-P province and northern districts of Punjab have a large number of such people. A significant number of them are from the country’s major cities. They form a voter-block unlike any Pakistan has seen in its political history. They don’t have fixed political affiliations. They don’t constitute a reliable vote-bank. Their expectation from the government is that of the satisfactory fulfilment of their basic needs – food, shelter, education, health and transport. Those who meet their aspirations will get their support.

A quick study of the results of the 2013 elections suggests that some 15 million moved away from the People’s Party and were equally divided between the Nawaz League and Tehrik-e-Insaf. However, the beneficiaries must not assume that this was a permanent move. If this social group is unhappy with the substance of governance, it will move on to other places. This is one reason why we are likely to see considerable volatility in the structure of politics in the country.

The rise of the new middle class also has significance for the productive sectors of the economy. With sufficient disposal incomes these people would like to spend on high value agricultural products such as vegetables, fruits, milk products and meat. However, the heavily subsidised agricultural sector under the influence of the old political class is still engaged in producing food grains. This means that in terms of adding value to the economy, agriculture is performing well below its considerable potential. This must change for political as well as economic reasons.

Demographic change is another area of analysis for those who would like to understand Pakistan’s political development. Pakistan has the youngest population among the world’s most populous countries. Since we have not held a census for 18 years, the country’s demographic profile can only be guessed at. I assume that the median age of the population is 23 years which means that some 100 million people are below that age. Youth moves more than those who are older. A large number of them have left their homes and are living in large cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Three-fourths of the populations of these cites is below the age of 25 years. They want good education and training, essential to find well-paying jobs. The Pakistani state has failed in this area which was why for-profit educational institutions in the country have proliferated.

Pakistan is changing fast, a fact that the old political class has not fully understood. It will pay a price for not watching what is happening around it. By the time this comprehension occurs, the country would have moved beyond its grasp.

Riaz Haq said…
#Europe's century old mistake: Shifting #Islam's theological-political power from Ottoman #Turkey to #SaudiArabia


EVERY time a European city is shaken by an act of mass violence, the continent's heavy-weight newspapers host agonised debates over what has gone wrong. In particular, debaters often ask, should European states have responded differently to the emergence of large, discontented Muslim minorities, either by accommodating cultural difference more generously or (as some advocate) by suppressing it? Even when it becomes clear that Islam was not really a factor at all (as seems to be the case with last week's killing spree by a maladjusted young man in Munich) the discussions go on.

One of America's leading authorities on European Islam has made a rather nuanced and unusual contribution to this conversation. Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in response to a column asserting that "terrorism has a lot to do with Islam", Jonathan Laurence argues (link to English translation) that the present-day pathologies of European Islam are a kind of aftershock from a century-old mistake. Or rather, of a short-sighted policy that went into higher gear almost exactly 100 years ago. In the summer of 1916, the British government and its war allies began fomenting an Arab revolt against the political and above all, spiritual authority of the Ottomans. This brought about the British-led capture of Jerusalem and the collapse of Ottoman dominion over Islam's holiest places, whether in the Levant or Arabia. As an alternative to Ottoman rule over the Arabs, the British initially backed the Hashemite dynasty which still reigns over Jordan; but the ultimate beneficiary was the royal house of Saud which took over Mecca and Medina in 1924.

In the view of Mr Laurence, a professor at Boston College, this brought to an end a period of several decades in which the caliphate (a spiritual role which the Ottomans combined, until 1922, with the worldly rank of sultan) had a generally benign effect on global Islam. Not only within the Ottoman realm but far beyond it, the caliphate formed the apex of a international network of teachers, preachers and judges. As was shown by Halil Inalcιk, an Ottoman historian who died this week aged 100, the sultan-caliphs' real power varied a lot over time; some managed to control the ulema or religious scholars, others didn't. But the institution's global spiritual role was especially important in the late 19th century and early 20th century, ultimately embracing more than 100m Muslims living under British rule (in South Asia) and under Dutch rule (in modern Indonesia). As Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish writer on religion, points out, the caliph's sway over Muslims in the Asia-Pacific region had benign consequences for the United States; Abdulhamid II (pictured), the last long-reigning sultan, helped persuade Filipino Muslims to accept American power over their archipelago. (Others have darker memories of that sovereign; Armenians hold him responsible for killing tens of thousands of their kin in 1895.)
Yet precisely because the Ottoman caliphate was so attractive to some of their subjects, European powers worked hard to undermine it. From at least 1870, British diplomacy tried to shift the centre of gravity in global Islam from the Turks to the Arabs. The Dutch tried to stop their Muslim subjects deferring to the caliph in their public prayers. With somewhat more success, the French promoted alternative centres of spiritual authority among the Muslims they ruled in Algeria and Morocco. As long as the Ottomans retained control of Libya (ie, until 1912), the caliphate kept some sway in North Africa. But when Turkey's new secular nationalist rulers finally abolished the office of caliph in 1924, their job was made easier by the fact that European powers had been sabotaging the sacred office for decades.
Riaz Haq said…
#Saudi Money Fuels the #Tech Industry in #SiliconValley. #Twitter #Facebook #Uber #WeWork The New York Times


We need to talk about the tsunami of questionable money crashing into the tech industry.

We should talk about it because that money is suddenly in the news, inconveniently out in the open in an industry that has preferred to keep its connection to petromonarchs and other strongmen on the down low.

The news started surfacing over the weekend, when Saudi Arabia arrested a passel of princes, including Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire tech investor who has large holdings in Apple, Twitter and Lyft. The arrests, part of what the Saudis called a corruption crackdown, opened up a chasm under the tech industry’s justification for taking money from the religious monarchy.


Unsurprisingly, this is not a topic many people want to talk about. SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that runs the $100 billion Vision Fund, which is shelling out eye-popping investments in tech companies, declined to comment for this column. Nearly half of the Vision Fund, about $45 billion, comes from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

WeWork and Slack, two prominent start-ups that have received recent investments from the Vision Fund, also declined to comment. So did Uber, which garnered a $3.5 billion investment from the Public Investment Fund in 2016, and which is in talks to receive a big investment from the SoftBank fund. The Public Investment Fund also did not return a request for comment.

Twitter, which got a $300 million investment from Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company in 2011 — around the same time that it was talking up its role in the Arab Spring — declined to comment on his arrest. Lyft, which received $105 million from Prince Alwaleed in 2015, also declined to comment.

Privately, several founders, investors and others at tech companies who have taken money from the Saudi government or prominent members of the royal family did offer insight into their thinking. Prince Alwaleed, some pointed out, was not aligned with the Saudi government — his arrest by the government underscores this — and he has advocated for some progressive reforms, including giving women the right to drive, a restriction that the kingdom says will be lifted next year.

The founders and investors also brought up the Saudi government’s supposed push for modernization. The Saudis have outlined a long-term plan, Vision 2030, that calls for a reduction in the state’s dependence on oil and a gradual loosening on economic and social restrictions, including a call for greater numbers of women to enter the work force. The gauzy vision allows tech companies to claim to be part of the solution in Saudi Arabia rather than part the problem: Sure, they are taking money from one of the world’s least transparent and most undemocratic regimes, but it’s the part of the government that wants to do better.

Another mitigating factor, for some, is the sometimes indirect nature of the Saudi investments. When the SoftBank Vision Fund invests tens of millions or billions into a tech company, it’s true that half of that money is coming from Saudi Arabia. But it’s SoftBank that has control over the course of the investment and communicates with founders. The passive nature of the Saudi investment in SoftBank’s fund thus allows founders to sleep better at night.

On the other hand, it also has a tendency to sweep the Saudi money under the rug. When SoftBank invests in a company, the Saudi connection is not always made clear to employees and customers. You get to enjoy the convenience of your WeWork without having to confront its place in the Saudi government’s portfolio.
Riaz Haq said…
4 Pakistani students score big at Intel science fair
3 students among 6 who represented Pakistan at global contest were from schools run by Turkish foundation in country


Four young Pakistani students secured places at the world's largest pre-college science fair, Intel ISEF, held in the U.S. last week.

Pakistan was represented by six students at the world's largest fair of its kind, including three from Pak-Turk Maarif International Schools, run in Pakistan by a Turkish foundation.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world's largest international pre-college science competition and is held in Phoenix, Arizona featuring over 1,800 students from more than 80 countries, regions, and territories.

Sadaf Naushad, from the Pak-Turk Maarif school, was one of six Pakistani students who presented their science projects at the fair and won a special prize in the field of energy and also got a scholarship at Arizona state University with a cash prize for the grand prize.

Ahmed Zafar and Usaid Ahmed from Karachi and Mian Affan Anwar from Rawalpindi also won prizes and scholarships in the global competition.

"I’m very happy, My family, friends, and colleagues are very happy for my success being recognized there on such a big platform," Sadaf Naushad from Karachi’s Pak-Turk Maarif School told Anadolu Agency.

It’s really a big achievement for my project," she added.

Sadaf’s award-winning project was a dual-purpose highway turbine.

The turbine is a vertical axis wind turbine project that serves two purposes by utilizing the wind produced by a vehicle’s movement along the highway as well as the natural wind.

Speeding vehicles on highways can provide enough wind to power the turbines 24 hours without stopping.

The energy generated can be used for lighting along highways attached to the turbine and also extract water from underground for irrigation.

"The aims of the project is to reduce electricity consumption and generate electricity as a renewable resource to promote greenery near Pakistan's highways," Sadaf explained.

Highway turbines have already been installed in Turkey, but Sadaf's innovation is to pump underground water for irrigation.

Sadaf thanked Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, her teachers, and school administration for their support, saying that Maarif always promote STEM education and encourages teachers and students to participate in competitions, unlike many other schools.

Maarif announcement for students and teachers

Selahattin Batur, the Maarif Foundation's director in Pakistan, announced a special visit to Turkey for the students and teachers who took part in Intel ISEF.

"It’s a great honor that three students among all six participants from Pakistan in the global competition were from Maarif schools," Batur told Anadolu Agency.

All three students and their teachers will be awarded a one-week trip to Turkey, he announced.

Batur said his administration would encourage and support Maarif students entering competitions on the national and international level in the future as well.

Currently the Maarif Foundation is running 28 schools in Pakistan.

Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 after a coup attempt by the Fetullah Terrorist Group (FETO), a terror group that uses overseas schools as a revenue stream.

Maarif has taken over dozens of the terror-linked schools and reformed their administration and curriculum.
Riaz Haq said…
Ertugrul craze in #Pakistan? Not the first time. Other #Turkish series such as Ishq e Mamnu (Forbidden Love), Mera Sultan (My Sultan), and Fatmagul have been major hits. #Pakistanis are finding a deeper, personal connection with Ertugrul’s life. @TRTWorld https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/what-s-behind-the-ertugrul-craze-in-pakistan-36214

More than just the heroics of a man who fought Christian Byzantines and the Knights Templar Crusaders, people are finding a deeper, personal connection with Ertugrul’s life.

Shahid, the banker, says she likes how women have been depicted as strong-headed individuals, who manage household chores while also helping financially.

Take Hayme Hatun, Ertugrul’s mother, who had to balance the love for children with a sense of fairness in the interest of the tribe. “I loved the way she runs the carpet workshop with other women while playing her ceremonial role as the first lady - being a constant support to her husband in thick and thin.”


Since the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan has been at the centre of the United States-led war on terror. Suicide bombings and counter insurgency campaigns have dominated national discourse.

Naturally this has made many people want to wade into the more glorious Muslim past, says Mahmood, the journalist. “Turkish history from a Pakistani prism gives you the best of both worlds. You get a bit secular, a bit modern Islamic history.”

Pakistanis also have a shared history with the Turks, he says. In the early 20th Century, Muslims in modern day Pakistan and India rallied behind the Ottomans in what is known as the Khilafat Movement.

“I feel that in our conscientiousness there’s an unbroken chain between the days of Khilafat and the Ottoman Empire,” says Mahmood.

“It’s not necessary that you have to be an expert in history to know this, these things flow from cultural memory.”

If there’s any such thing as a ‘shared Muslim history’ then Ertugrul has surely helped fill a great vaccum in telling that story.

“In our part of the world we haven’t produced anything of this quality on, say, Muhammad Bin Qasim or Tipu Sultan,” says Muhammad Yasir, a Karachi-based writer.

In the past decade, a lot of Pakistanis have started to look at Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the lone Muslim leader who takes a firm stand on issues of Muslim plight concerning the Rohingya, Kashmir and Palestine, he says.

“I think all of this has added to our interest in the Turks and their history.

“And quite frankly I can imagine myself as part of Ertugrul’s tribe. But I can never relate to Robin Hood in the same way.”
Riaz Haq said…
A vast cultural movement is emerging from outside the Western world. Truly global in its range and allure, it is the biggest challenge yet to Hollywood, McDonald's, blue jeans, and other aspects of American mass-produced popular culture. This is a book about the new arbiters of mass culture --India's Bollywood films, Turkey's soap operas, ordizi, and South Korea's pop music. Carefully packaging not always secular modernity, combined with traditional values, in urbanized settings, they have created a new global pop culture that strikes a deeper chord than the American version, especially with the many millions who are only just arriving in the modern world and still negotiating its overwhelming changes.

Fatima Bhutto, an indefatigable reporter and vivid writer, profiles Shah Rukh Khan, by many measures the most popular star in the world; goes behind the scenes ofMagnificent Century, Turkey's biggestdizi, watched by more than 200 million people across 43 countries; and travels to South Korea to see how K-Pop started. Bhutto's book is an important dispatch from a new, multipolar order that is taking form before our eyes.
Source: Publisher


Mass culture is the set of ideas and values that develop from a common exposure to the same media, news sources, music, and art. Mass culture is broadcast or otherwise distributed to individuals instead of arising from their day-to-day interactions with each other. Thus, mass culture generally lacks the unique content of local communities and regional cultures. Frequently, it promotes the role of individuals as consumers. With the rise of publishing and broadcasting in the 19th and 20th centuries, the scope of mass culture expanded dramatically. It replaced folklore, which was the cultural mainstream of traditional local societies. With the growth of the Internet since the 1990s, many distinctions between mass media and folklore have become blurred.


Global mass culture has risen with the advent of the Internet


Popular culture (also called mass culture and pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of the practices, beliefs and objects that are dominant or ubiquitous in a society at a given point in time. Popular culture also encompasses the activities and feelings produced as a result of interaction with these dominant objects. Heavily influenced in modern times by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of people in a given society. Therefore, popular culture has a way of influencing an individual's attitudes towards certain topics.[1] However, there are various ways to define pop culture.[2] Because of this, popular culture is something that can be defined in a variety of conflicting ways by different people across different contexts.[3] It is generally viewed in contrast to other forms of culture such as folk culture, working-class culture, or high culture, and also through different theoretical perspectives such as psychoanalysis, structuralism, postmodernism, and more. The most common pop-culture categories are: entertainment (such as movies, music, television and video games), sports, news (as in people/places in the news), politics, fashion, technology, and slang.[4]

Riaz Haq said…
Israeli Opinion in JPost: #Turkey, #Pakistan, #Malaysia and #Qatar form "troubling" new alliance. It reflects a power shift in the #Islamic world away from the #Arabs. Its enemies, are #India, #Israel and (at the rhetorical level) the #Christian #West. https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/turkey-pakistan-malaysia-and-qatar-form-troubling-new-alliance-629519

THE DISPUTE around Naik casts light on the currently burgeoning relations between three significant Muslim countries – Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. This emergent alliance is a reflection of a shift in power in the Islamic world away from its traditional Arab center.
Ankara, Islamabad and Kuala Lumpur, with Qatar as an additional partner, today constitute an emergent power nexus, built around a common orientation toward a conservative, Sunni political Islam. This nexus is united as much by common enmities as by common affections. Its enemies, are India, Israel and (at the rhetorical level) the Christian West.
Its rivals within the diplomacy of the Islamic world, meanwhile, are Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally dominated the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the main pan-Islamic diplomatic body, and the UAE.
The crystallization of this new alliance has been apparent for some time. In late September 2019, Erdogan, Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met at the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York. The three agreed at that meeting to establish an English-language TV channel to combat ‘Islamophobia’ in the West.
Mahathir then sought to convene a summit in Kuala Lumpur, in December 2019, to identify, according to a press release announcing the summit, “what has gone wrong – with a view to eventually reclaiming the Muslim world’s fame and glory of yore.” Briefing the media in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on the summit, Mahathir suggested that “maybe, it can be regarded as the first step towards rebuilding the great Muslim civilization.”
The countries invited to the Kuala Lumpur summit were Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar and Indonesia. Mahathir described the invited countries as “a few people who have the same perception of Islam and the problems faced by Muslims.”
Subsequent Saudi pressure on Pakistan prevented its attendance at the KL summit. The joint diplomatic activities of the countries invited, however, have continued apace. So far, these efforts have largely been directed at India, with the focus on the issue of the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Kashmir appears to be a matter of particular interest to the Turkish president, in his effort to cast himself as a pan-Islamic leader, and in his desire to draw closer to Pakistan.
Turkey held an international conference on the subject on November 21, 2019. A Pakistani senator, Sherry Rehmen, participated in this gathering. During Erdogan’s visit to Pakistan in early 2020, the Turkish president mentioned Kashmir six times during a 25-minute speech to a joint session of the Pakistani parliament.
Erdogan likened Kashmir to the Turkish struggle for Gallipoli against the British and French in World War I. “It was Canakkale yesterday, and it is Kashmir today. There is no difference,” he asserted, in remarks that led India to issue a formal démarche to the Turkish ambassador in New Delhi, against interference in its internal affairs.
Malaysia also adopted a new and vociferously critical tone on the issue. Mahathir, shortly before his resignation in late 2019, said that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir and was “taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship.”
It is worth noting that by contrast to this diplomatic activism, Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain that Kashmir remains an internal Indian matter.
This reflects the growing closeness between Riyadh and New Delhi, expressed also in the major investments in India announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to India in 2019.
Riaz Haq said…
1 vision, 3 countries: #Turkey, #Pakistan, #Malaysia. New #TV channel will be in #English, with any non-English programs to be recorded, dubbed or subtitled in the English language. English is widely understood in countries where #Islamophobia is rampant. http://sabahdai.ly/_bnp

In starting a new television channel, the main requirement is content. In a 24-hour, seven-day a week broadcasting range, television content must remain fresh and continuous to capture and retain the interest of viewers. Repeated programs often lose audiences.

News coverage can provide some fresh content on a daily basis, but a news channel was not what the leader visualized last year. Besides, there is no point adding one more Muslim news channel to the list of successful channels already operating globally such as Al-Jazeera, TRT World and Arab News TV.

The aim of the new channel should be not only to reach out to the wider Western public, which has little knowledge of Islamic history and social values, but also millions of TV viewers in East and Central Europe, the Far East and Central Asia who have been out of the loop on Islamic history due to their peculiar national and political circumstances and selective coverage of satellite and internet-based TV broadcasting.

From the content point of view, if the resources of the three countries are pooled together, there will be no deficit of broadcast material. What will be required is converting most of the existing comedy, cultural dramas and documentaries into English for a global audience.

In order to be effective, one of the three state broadcasters from Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia should be given the role of a coordinator to frame the terms of reference for ensuring balance and standardization of content.

TRT TV is well placed both in terms of resources and content to take a leading role, working in collaboration with the experienced PTV in Pakistan and the relatively new RTM TV in Malaysia.

Collaboration is vital

Parallel with this work, the telecommunication authorities in the three countries should also agree to allocate at least two transponders on their national satellites to enable their nationals to watch the current on-air broadcasts of the partner countries in their home countries.

For example, Turkey can lease out one transponder each to PTV World and RTM TV1 on its Turksat 40E satellite to enable Turkish and foreign viewers in Turkey to watch the current programs of these partner media houses. In return, Pakistan should allocate two transponders on PakSat to TRT World and RTM TV1 for Pakistani viewers to be able to watch Turkish and Malaysian state television broadcasts.

Similarly, Malaysia can enable PTV World and TRT World to reach its domestic viewers through the use of the Malaysian state satellite. This will, of course, require a trilateral agreement between the telecommunication authorities to mutually extend these facilities to each other on a reciprocal basis.

This arrangement will also require compliance with the international principle of not using another country’s territory and resources, in this case, the host national satellite, to launch a sustained media attack against a third country with which the host country enjoys good relations.

Mutual hosting will also encourage the state broadcaster in each country to improve the quality of its content, as well as production because if its programs do not appeal to a broader international audience, the viewership of the new channel will decline and may even threaten the viability of the project.

A majority of television viewers in urban areas are comprised of cable subscribers. This is not only a smart way of avoiding ugly dish installations on rooftops but also an effective way to ensure regular servicing and upgrades.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #women break dating taboos on #Tinder. Though casual #dating for women is still frowned upon in socially conservative & heavily patriarchal Pakistan, attitudes are rapidly changing in the country's cities. #Karachi #Lahore #Islamabad #Pakistan https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-women-tinder/a-54509792

Casual dating for women is often frowned upon in Pakistan's male-dominated society. However, dating apps such as Tinder are challenging norms and allowing women to take more control over their sexuality.

Faiqa is a 32-year-old entrepreneur in Islamabad, and, like many young single women around the world, she uses dating apps to connect with men.

Although casual dating for women is still frowned upon in socially conservative and heavily patriarchal Pakistan, attitudes are rapidly changing in the country's cities.

Faiqa has been using the dating app Tinder for two years, and she said although the experience has been "liberating," many Pakistani men are not used to the idea of women taking control of their sexuality and dating lives. Pakistani women are often expected to preserve a family's "honor."

"I've met some men on Tinder who describe themselves as 'open minded feminists,' yet still ask me: 'Why is a decent and educated girl like you on a dating app?'" Faiqa told DW.

Online dating grows in South Asia

India leads South Asia's online dating market, and Pakistan is slowly catching on. A study by the Indonesian Journal of Communication Studies found that most of Pakistan's Tinder users come from major cities including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi and are usually between 18 and 40 years old.

Other dating apps are also growing in popularity. MuzMatch caters exclusively to Muslims looking for a date. Bumble, despite being relatively new to the online dating market, is a favorite among many Pakistani feminists, as women initiate the first conversation.

"There are fewer men on Bumble, therefore it somehow feels safer to use. Tinder is well-known and someone you know could see you, making it uncomfortable," said Nimra, a student from Lahore.

However, many young women in Pakistan use apps because it makes dating more private.

"With a dating app, a woman can choose if she wants a discreet one night stand, a fling, a long-term relationship etc. It is hard for women to do this openly in our culture, which is why dating apps give them an opportunity they won't find elsewhere," said Nabiha Meher Shaikh, a feminist activist from Lahore.

Exploring sexuality in a conservative society

Sophia, a26-year old researcher from Lahore, told DW she uses Tinder to explore her "sexuality without constraints."

"I don't care if people judge me. Society will always judge you, so why bother trying to please them?" she said.

However, not all female Tinder users are as open as Sophia. Most Tinder profiles of Pakistani women do not disclose their full identity, with photographs showing only cropped faces, close-up shots of hands or feet, faces covered with hair or only painted fingernails.

"If we put up our real names or photographs, most men tend to stalk us. If we don't respond, they find us on social media and send weird messages," said 25-year-old Alishba from Lahore.

She also pointed out dating double standards, explaining that married men on Tinder often use their "broken" marriage as an excuse to date other women.

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