Brotherhood angry at Erdogan call for secular Egypt

During visit to Cairo, Turkish PM suggested Egypt ensure secular nature of state in new constitution.

Erdogan 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Erdogan 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday expressed anger at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's assertion that Egypt should adopt the Turkish system of government and ensure the state's secular nature in its constitution, Al Arabiya reported.
Erdogan made the statement during an appearance on Egyptian television. The Turkish leader had received a hero's welcome upon his arrival in Egypt. Many of the Egyptians gathered to welcome Erdogan appeared to be religious conservatives eager to imitate his AKP party’s success in bringing traditional Islam into mainstream politics.
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“Erdogan, Erdogan – a big welcome from the Brothers!” one protester’s banner said, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Brotherhood spokesman Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan said in a statement that Erdogan's comments constituted foreign intervention into Egypt's internal issues.
He said that it would be impossible to apply Turkey's political reality to Egypt.
Erdogan said on the television program that "a secular state does not mean that the people are atheists, it means respect for all religions and each individual has the freedom to practice his own religion."
He added: "99 percent of the population in Turkey are Muslims, there are Christians, Jews and minorities, but the state treats them equally and this is recognized by Islam and  has been true throughout Islamic history."
Essam el-Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party said,
"We welcome Turkey and we welcome Erdogan as a prominent leader but we do not think that he or his country alone should be leading the region or drawing up its future."
Erdogan's AKP party, with its Islamist roots and election success, has become a model for much of the Brotherhood and other political groups as they prepare for the first free vote since Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule was ended in February.
But the Brotherhood and other groups are wary of outside involvement in a home-grown uprising. A senior Turkish official said Turkey did not want to dictate but offer help.
"Arab states do not need outside projects ... This has to come from the new internal systems of the Arab countries which after the revolutions ... will be democratic ones," said Erian, who was jailed under Mubarak.
Erian, however, praised Erdogan's political success at home in free elections and his achievement in building a strong economy and supporting Arab causes.
"He has successfully invested in the Arab and Muslim world's central case which is the Palestinian case," he said.
Erian said Erdogan had met members of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party.
A senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Erdogan had offered help if requested. "We are not saying we will come and teach you what to do, we are saying we can help if you want," he said.

Oren Kessler contributed to this report