Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented his country as a model for an Arab world in turmoil on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
During his high-profile visit to Egypt, where he received a hero's welcome on Monday night, Erdogan conducted a media blitz, during which he was interviewed on Egypt's most popular political talk show, "10 o'clock."
AP reported that during the interview the Turkish prime minister defended the concept of secularism.
"To Egyptians who view secularism as removing religion from the state, or as an infidel state, I say you are mistaken," Erdogan was quoted as having said. "It means respect to all religions. ... If this is implemented, the entire society will live in safety."
He added, "Turkish secularism respects atheists because in the end Turkey is a state that believes in the rule of law."
During the visit Erdogan, who is seeking to take advantage of the Arab Spring so that Turkey can have greater influence in the region, met with Field Marshal Mohammed Hossein Tantawi, Egypt's military ruler, then addressed Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League. There, he criticized Israel and said it was "isolated," referring to his country's diplomatic row with the Jewish State.
"Israel must respect human rights and act as a normal country and then it will be liberated from its isolation," Erdogan was quoted by AP as saying.
The Turkish leader backed recognition for a Palestinian state in the upcoming vote in the UN, saying "this is not an option but a necessity."
He continued bashing Israel in a later speech at Cairo's Opera House, where he warned of increasing steps against Israel unless it compensates the victims of the 2010 flotilla raid and lifts its naval blockade on Gaza.
Erdogan was quoted as having said Israel "has lost a great chance, and ties have been lowered with Turkey, the region's biggest democracy."
But while Egyptians were impressed by his tough stance against Israel, they were less than impressed by his model of Islamic democracy, AP noted.
A spokesman for the extreme Muslim Brotherhood, which has openly expressed its hope of taking power in Egypt, told AP on Tuesday Erdogan was "a respectable leader who preserves the dignity of his country and who shares similar positions on Israel," but insisted Egyptians want an Islamic state.
"In Turkey, when a man finds a woman in bed with another man, he can't punish her by law because it is permitted there. It means that Turkey ... violates Islamic Shariah law," Mahmoud Ghozlan told AP.
Nabil Abdel-Fattah of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said Egypt's Brotherhood, while recently having praised Erdogan, is unlikely to follow the example of his Justice and Development Party, which has avoided pushing a religious agenda to focus on building the economy.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is trying is to put on an Erdogan mask ... to reassure liberal sectors in Egyptian society," Abdel-Fattah told AP. "The Muslim Brotherhood opposes secularism and hates to hear Erdogan talking of it", he added.