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Turkey can be ‘inspiration’ for Arabs: Erdogan

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Turkey has shown that Islam and democracy “can co-exist perfectly” and could serve as an “inspiration” in efforts to end unrest sweeping Arab countries, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told AFP.

“We are not seeking to be a model or whatsoever, but we can be a source of inspiration since Turkey has shown that Islam and democracy can co-exist perfectly,” the Islamist-rooted Erdogan said in an interview late Wednesday.

“Having religious beliefs does not prevent one from having a democracy and democracy does not prevent one from having religious beliefs. And in this country, we have had both for years,” he said.

Even though many observers have pointed at Turkey as a model for the Muslim world, the non-Arab secular nation has refrained from presenting itself as an explicit example that Arab countries should heed following uprisings that have toppled the strongmen of Tunisia and Egypt.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, remains under fire at home for moves seen as efforts to undermine Turkey’s secular system, control the judiciary and bully the opposition press.

“We are happy to be what we are… We want an advanced democracy,” Erdogan said.

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