To pass the time and take my mind off the horrors that unfold daily in our proto-fascist country, I have been binge-watching on Netflix a Turkish [!!] TV serial called Resurrection: Ertugrul. I am currently watching episode 13, but never fear, it seems there are 72 of them in all. This is apparently an enormously popular Turkish TV show, watched by an implausibly large percentage of the entire population of our NATO ally. The show is about a small nomadic tribe of 13th century folks who make their living by herding sheep and weaving blankets. The hero is a handsome, upstanding moderately bearded member of the tribe named Ertugrul, who is the son of the Bey, or leader, of the tribe. The love interest is an attractive young woman named Halime who shows up in the tribe’s campgrounds with her father and young brother and quickly captures Ertugrul’s heart, to the dismay of a local beauty who has her hopes set on him. The entire show is in Turkish, but there are English subtitles [and also subtitles available in a dozen other languages.] The subtitles are a hoot, since they are filled with the sorts of grammatical mistakes that a rushed and not entirely fluent English speaking translator might make.
After watching three or four episodes, I got curious as to whether these characters were actually based on historical figures. Wikipedia supplied the answer. Ertugrul and Halime were the parents of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire [that settled the question whether the two of them would end up together, robbing the series of some of its suspense, at least for me.] This show is clearly a cultural part of Turkey’s current turn toward Islam and away from NATO and the West.
In Episode 11 or so, one of the villains, a Roman Catholic churchman and supporter of the Templars, who are contemplating another Crusade, goes to a bookstore [or so it seems to be] in Aleppo, where he encounters a distinguished elderly man with a full white beard [all the Muslims have beards except the very young men, and of course the women]. He asks the shop’s proprietor whether he has a certain book, and is told “of course.” When he offers to buy it, the elderly chap gives it to him as a gift, and says, “I wrote it.” As the villain is leaving with the book, he turns to his flunkey and says, “That man is Ibn Arabi.”
A tone of awe in the villain’s voice led me to look up Ibn Arabi. Well, as some of you doubtless know but I did not, Ibn Arabi is one of the most famous figures of all Islam, a Sufi mystic who wrote countless works and plays a central role in Muslim religious and intellectual history. It is a bit like watching a shlock technicolor historical flick in which Charlton Heston, playing a Roman centurion, meets an old Jew in Jerusalem who says he is a follower of Jesus and his name is Peter.
Obviously everyone in Turkey knows all of this and gets a little thrill from such moments. Great fun.