As thousands of innocent people are mercilessly tortured in Egypt’s prisons, the country’s influential body responsible for issuing fatwas, Dar Al-Iftaa, is occupied with banning a popular Turkish TV show, Ertugrul.
The fact that the grandees at Dar Al-Iftaa never complained about Saudis celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali, the pagan festival of Halloween, or Valentine’s Day is quite revealing.
What has aroused Dar al-Iftaa’s ire (actually the ire of their paymasters)?
Ertugrul narrates the story of how the Ottoman Sultanate was established. Ertugrul was the father of Osman Ghazi, founder of the Ottoman Sultanate that expanded its reach into Central Asia, the Middle East as well as large parts of Europe.
What have the Arabian regimes got to show by way of achievement?
A joke about the Arabian rulers goes something like this. They were in a meeting boasting about their prowess on the battlefield.
The Egyptians said they fought the Israelis, and the British and French. The Algerians said they fought the French and drove them out.
The Syrians and Iraqis also claimed to have fought Israel with the Iraqis throwing in their aggression against Islamic Iran as well.
Everyone looked at the Saudis who sat there in stony silence.
“What about you?” the others asked in unison.
After a long pause, the Saudis exploded: “We fought against the Prophet in Badr, Uhud, Khandaq…”
Unable to develop anything including a quality entertainment industry without Western help and guidance, the Saudi and UAE regimes have been banning the popular Turkish TV series Ertugrul from media platforms under their control since 2018.
The reason for the ban is entirely political and they have openly admitted it. They say it glorifies Turkish achievements.
By 2023, the popular TV series’ revenues are estimated to hit $1 billion.
The UAE even went so far as to invest $40 million in a film titled, “Mamalik el-Nar” (Kingdoms of Fire) shot in Tunisia directed by Peter Webber.
It tells the story of the battle between the Ottoman Sultan Selim and the Mamluks in Egypt.
This is an attempt to present the Turks as the enemies of Arabs.
Saudi propaganda outlet the Saudi Gazette reported that Riyadh-owned television network MBC is preparing to air the series, which “exposes the tyranny of the Ottomans and their bloody history.’’
Following in the footsteps of his paymasters, the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi also banned the Ertugrul series and put a religious veneer on the ban.
According to Yeni Safak, “Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa has published a statement accusing Turkey of trying to create an ‘area of influence’ for itself in the Middle East using its soft power…
“They [Erdogan and his followers] export to the people and nations the idea that they are the leaders of the caliphate, responsible for supporting Muslims worldwide and being their salvation from oppression and injustice, while also seeking to implement Islamic law.
“They hide the fact that their main drive in these colonial campaigns is what [Turkish President] Erdogan reaps from material and political gains.”
Throughout the Middle East, vulgar Bollywood movies are extremely popular. These movies project Hindu culture in predominantly Muslim societies but that neither bothers the regime nor its fatwa issuing factories.
The Saudis have opened gambling casinos and plans are afoot to develop beaches where scantily dressed girls will romp around without inhibition, all this and more do not bother Dar al-Iftaa.
Our humble question to the so-called scholars at Dar al-Iftaa is, do bikinis conform to Islamic dress code as prescribed in the noble Qur’an?
Dar Al-Iftaa’s servitude to the agenda of despotic regimes like the ones in Cairo or Riyadh is a manifestation of a deeper malaise facing the Muslim Ummah. It is the absence of independent and committed ulama to lead Islamic institutions.
Organizations like Dar Al-Iftaa or the Muslim World League are financed by despotic regimes beholden to Western powers.
How can they serve as genuine vehicles for Muslim interests?
In the contemporary global setting, it is essential for Muslims to develop their own entertainment industry and view this to be as important as renovating mosques.
Until Muslims see the importance of media projects to be as crucial as carpets in the mosques, our worldview will be shaped by Hollywood or Bollywood way more than 45 minutes of khutbah on Fridays.
Iran and Turkey have taken important first steps in this direction. The illegitimate regimes in the Arab world and their institutions are creating barriers against them.
It is therefore crucial for Islamic scholars to exercise ijtihad and put forward a financing mechanism rooted in Zakat or Khums that would make organizations like Dar Al-Iftaa independent of regime handouts.