Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mosque or Buddhist Temple? The challenge heats up for new place of worship at university

From Daily Sabah 

"I've been interested in Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism for a couple years. I want a convenient place to practice my religious duties," a student wrote. "The closest Buddhist temple is 2,000 kilometers away from here. I can't fulfill my Buddhist religious duties under these conditions. I want a Buddhist temple on our campus," wrote another.

These were some of the comments that were made by the students of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) – a preeminent institution offering technical courses in Turkey that educates nearly 25,000 students – for their petition campaign "We want a Buddhist Temple" on the website change.org. Undoubtedly, these comments were written for comedic purposes; however, it is an attempt to call attention to the ongoing controversy about building a mosque within the university's Ayazağa campus.

The idea to establish a mosque inside the campus is not a new idea. Nine months ago, ITU student Mahmut Yıldırım started a petition on change.org that was supported by some student groups. While they initially collected 5,000 signatures, nearly 180,000 have signed already. The reason for the students' request for an on-campus mosque is not so complicated. For students, it is a simple case of freedom of religion. Moreover, they also underscore the necessity to have a clean and convenient place to pray. This is difficult to fulfill, especially during Friday prayers, when performed in narrow rooms, not to mention when there is limited time between classes. The students also think that the campus, which consists of 247 hectares, can easily host a mosque without facing a problem concerning space.

The ongoing debate escalated after the announcement of the approval of this request by the university's administration. The students who want to construct a Buddhist Temple, that is, those who oppose the establishment of a mosque, also started a petition campaign on change.org that has collected 19,000 signatures so far..." more

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