Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which was successful in marrying Islam and democracy, has become a model for much of the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups such as Tunisia’s long banned Ennahda movement, as they prepare for the first free vote since decades-old rule in Egypt and Tunisia were ended earlier this year.
Erdoğan spoke about secularism in Egypt earlier this week, saying Turkey prefers a model of secularism that is not identical to the “Anglo-Saxon or Western model,” without elaborating. “Individuals cannot be secular, states are. A devout Muslim can successfully govern a secular state,” Erdoğan then said.
Erdoğan, while speaking in Tunisia about secularism, said his “secularism” term was translated as “irreligiousness” in Egypt that caused a confusion among Arabs. He offered an explanation for the Muslim Brotherhood's anger at his words in Cairo and said his words were misunderstood because of a translation mistake.
Asked about his secularism remarks in Libya on Friday during a press conference with Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Erdoğan reiterated that his remarks were mistranslated and that secularism is not about being an enemy of religion.
He said people in Turkey know very well what he thinks about this issue and “that’s why they cast 50 percent vote for me.” Erdoğan said post-revolution Arab nations will be discussing more to understand secularism today.
Erdoğan said an individual cannot be secular but a state is. According to Erdoğan, secularism is that while a Muslim is governing a state, he would stand in equal distance to all faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslim and atheits.
“Faith of all faith communities are under state guarentee. This is our understanding,” he said, adding that if there is anything that is against Islam, “please explain me.”
Turkey will stand by Libyans in rebuilding
Erdoğan pledged that Turkey will stand by Libyan people in upcoming period to meet the needs of Libyans in political, military, economic, trade and infrastructure works.
He said Libyan people has come to a historic turning point in their struggle toward a goal of achieving freedom, democracy and justice which Libyans were longing for many years.
Erdoğan also called on Libyans in Gaddafi stronghold Sirte and Saba to quit their fighting and unite with Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi. He said whatever happened in Benghazi and Tripoli, the same will happen in Sirte and Saba eventually because he said sooner or later wishes of Libyan people will win.
Speaking about several difficulties the Libya’s governing body may experience in this transition period, Erdoğan said Libya belongs to Libya and it must remain so.
Reminding that the schools will be opened in Libya soon, Erdoğan said Turkey will give any kind of support in restoration of schools in Libya along with public facilities such as police posts and courhouses. He added that Turkey will also establish an orphanage house in Misrata for children of slain Libyans.
Among Turkey’s plans, Erdoğan said, there are also building a physical therapy center and a parliament building. He warned against dire situation in Sirte, Saba and Bin Walid regarding food and water, Erdoğan said Turkish charity teams will deliver food and water in these areas this weekend.
Recalling that Turkish Airlines (THY) has already started flights to Benghazi, Erdoğan said the company is planning to start flights to capital Tripoli as soon as possible. He said he will proceed to Misrata from Tripoli and then to Benghazi.
Asked about Turkish companies which possibly involved in corruption during the Gaddafi regime, Erdoğan said he has no intelligence on that but if there is any, it is full right of the Libya’s governing body to deal with that.
‘Bashar will have to pay price’
Speaking about Syria, Erdoğan said Turkey’s sensitivity regarding Syria is that Turkey fears of a sectarian strife in the neighboring country.
Erdoğan reiterated his criticisms against Syrian regime and said those who attack their people with artillery and tanks can't remain in power. He said Turkey’s position toward “Bashar” is different from what it was one or two months ago. He said Assad will have to pay price after all these incidents and that Turkey will give its final decision regarding the developments in Syria after UN discussions next week the latest.
This was the first time Erdoğan was calling Assad with his first name. He always was used to say "Mr. Assad."