Religious freedoms in Turkey have been a controversial case in the past century with the abolition of local, independent and religious institutions and unifying all religious authorities under a new state directorate of religion. Ever since the formation of such a state religion, Muslims have suffered a great deal when it comes to practicing their religion. Over the decades the state’s response to individuals and groups that wanted to practice their religion free from state pressure, rose to levels of prohibition on dress codes, behaviors, rhetoric, political representation etc.
The state monopoly over religious affairs and pressure on religious citizens have been a major catalyst behind the rise of political Islam. Ever since the AKP government have come to power in 2002, their neo-liberal agenda has been dominated by an Islamist perspective. This perspective has foreseen an increase in taxes on alcohol, restriction on lifestyles seen as divergence from a Muslim way of life, lifting ban on religious presence in public spaces and construction of many more mosques. In November 2014, government’s religious directorate had announced the plans to construct mosques in the campuses of 80 universities and promote mosque constructions in all universities.
One plan has been to construct mosques in every campus for the university students to practice their religion, pray and seek religious counseling; much like the century-ago tendencies in christian universities. One such case has been brought up at Istanbul Technical University, where the rector said “due to the request of students, we will construct a mosque… This is not only for the Muslim students, any religious group is welcome. If there be request, we would construct a synagogue.”
Thousands of students and alumni have received the decision to construct religious buildings on campus as not relevant to education, as funds have been created to be invested in scientific progress. Thus, in protest of the decision, they have started a campaign requesting the construction of a Buddhist Temple on campus to serve the needs of Buddhist students.
The campaign to have a mosque constructed on ITU campus has attracted 713 signatories in 9 months, while the campaign to have a Buddhist Temple on campus has so far attracted around 9.000 signatures in less than 5 days.
The students name their reasons as such:
-The closest temple is 3680 kilometers far from our campus,
-Even a small temple will be enough, as we are not that many,
-We demand a temple, in the name of Siddhartha!
The students have created a Change.org campaign: https://www.change.org/p/rektor-itu-edu-tr-it%C3%BC-ye-budist-tap%C4%B1na%C4%9F%C4%B1-istiyoruz