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Egypt

“Don’t Be Afraid Of Secularism...” How Erdogan’s Egypt Tour Looks In Turkey

Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a splash on his so-called "Arab Spring" tour, landing in Cairo to a "rock star" welcome and later telling an interviewer that Egypt should embrace secularism. This is how

Prime Minister Erdogan (10 O'Clock)
Prime Minister Erdogan (10 O'Clock)
Umit Cetin

"Turkey defines secularism as the principle that the state is equidistant from all religions. Secularism is definitely not atheism. I recommend that Egypt too adopt a secular constitution." These are the words of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a high-profile Egyptian television interview during his first visit to Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime.

After landing to an enthusiastic welcome in Cairo, Erdogan spoke to Mona el Sali, Egypt's most famous talk show host. His emphasis was on the issue of secularism and his comment in the taped interview that "secularism doesn't mean being opposed to religion" caused a stir in the Islamic world, particularly in Egypt which is debating whether a new constitution should be secular or religious in nature.

"Secularism is definitely not atheism. I, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, am Muslim, not secular. But I am the prime minister of a secular country. In a secular regime people have the freedom to be religious or not," he continued. "Don't be afraid of secularism. I hope the new regime in Egypt will be secular."

Muslim Brotherhood cites adultery

The Muslim Brotherhood, who could take power in democratic elections, reacted to Erdogan's comments. The movement's spokesman Mahmud Gozlan referred to Erdogan as "a respectful leader who stands up for his country and shares our position on Israel," but said Egyptians wanted an Islamic state.

"In Turkey, if a man catches a woman in bed with another man, the laws don't punish her because it is allowed. In this sense Turkey violates Islamic sharia law," Gozlan was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. In a separate interview with Al Ahram newspaper, Gozlan said: "Other countries' experiences cannot be copied in Egypt. The conditions under which Turkey adopted secularism are not the same conditions currently enforced in Egypt."

Meanwhile, Erdogan is receiving much support and praise in Egyptian social media. One Twitter user, Faysal, referred to him as a ‘rock star".

Erdogan also visited the Coptic Christian leader Pope Shenouda III as part of his tour of Cairo. He was joined by senior members of his AK party, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Erdogan invited Shenouda to Turkey and suggested he furthers his ties with Turkey's official religious . His visit came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the Arab Spring had created "new threats' for religious minorities in the region. A US State Department report found that violence against Coptic Christians has been on the rise since the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Read more from Hurriyet in Turkish

Photo - 10 O'Clock

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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