Turkey to open mosques 'in every university'

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan, attends the opening ceremony of an imam-hatip school in Ankara on Nov 18, 2014. Turkey's top religious body said on Friday that there are plans to build a mosque in every
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan, attends the opening ceremony of an imam-hatip school in Ankara on Nov 18, 2014. Turkey's top religious body said on Friday that there are plans to build a mosque in every state university, adding to concerns over what critics say are creeping efforts to force Islamic values on the society. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey's top religious body said on Friday that there are plans to build a mosque in every state university, adding to concerns over what critics say are creeping efforts to force Islamic values on the society.

"Mosques are under construction in over 80 universities. Fifteen of them have been opened for prayers and we will open at least 50 more in 2015," said Mehmet Gormez, the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet in Turkish.

"There are 20 million young people in our country and we would like to reach out to each one of them," he told the official Anatolia news agency.

The Islamic-rooted government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been accused of seeking to impose religion on Turkey's mainly Muslim but officially secular society as well as Islamising the education system.

Gormez said each of the new mosques would have government-paid clerics to attend to "young people's problems" and provide guidance. "They will be the place where they will feel the love of God in their hearts," he said.

"We attach great importance to mosques in city universities. They are the only way to bring mosques back into the lives, the cities and the hearts of our people," he added.

In September, the government allowed girls in state high schools to wear the Muslim headscarf while banning pupils from wearing make-up, dyeing their hair, or having tattoos or body piercings.