“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
"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."
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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.
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