Students in Turkey petition for Jedi temple after call for mosque on campus

Critics say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to instill conservative Islamic values into everyday life in Turkey.

Story highlights

  • 5,500 signatures call for Jedi temple after similar petition asked for campus mosque
  • Petition started by a student at Dokuz Eylul University in the western province of Izmir

(CNN)The Force is strong in Turkey -- or at least it appears to be at one university where thousands of students are petitioning for a Jedi temple to be built on campus.

The petition, which was started by a student at Dokuz Eylul University in the western province of Izmir, so far has almost 5,500 signatures.
    "There are less and less Jedi left on the Earth," the petition says.
    It adds that "uneducated Padawan" -- the novice Jedis in George Lucas' "Star Wars" film franchise -- "are moving to the dark side. ... To find the balance in the Force, we want a Jedi temple."
    The page on Change.org also features a still of Jedi Grand Master Yoda from "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" teaching young Jedis how to use a light saber.
    "I'm signing because the nearest temple (is) billions of light years away," one supporter wrote on the petition page.
    Another supporter wrote: "We want freedom of worship. There are mosques everywhere, but no Jedi temple!"
    The petition was started by Akin Cagatay Caliskan, an 18-year-old computer science student from Ankara.
    Caliskan says he is surprised by the impact his petition has made: "I did not expect so many supporters. I thought maybe it might (have) 100."

    Religious debate

    The satirical document does have a serious side.
    An online debate started last month when Mehmet Karaca, the rector of Istanbul Technical University, said he would build a mosque on campus if there was enough support.
    Karaca was referencing another petition asking a mosque be built on campus, which almost 200,000 students signed.
    Twenty thousand students at ITU also signed a separate petition in response, demanding a Buddhist temple on campus.
    "I cannot fulfill my religious needs" and cannot afford "to go to the nearest Buddhist temple 2,000 miles away," Utku Gurcag Boratac from Istanbul wrote as her reason for signing.
    "I want to fulfill my religious needs on campus," said another.

    Freedoms

    This is just the latest flurry in a longstanding discussion around civil and religious freedoms in the secular republic.
    Turkey's secularist opposition has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the Islamist-based Justice and Development Party, of trying to instill conservative Islamic values into everyday life.
    Late last year, the head of Turkey's Islamic religious affairs authority, the Diyanet, announced plans to build 80 mosques on university campuses across the country.
    The Diyanet sparked discussion a few months earlier by opening a mosque on the campus of Erzurum Ataturk University in the eastern province of Erzurum, according to Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet.