In a televised address to an audience of Muslim leaders from Latin America in Istanbul over the weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Muslims discovered America in the 12th Century.
“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus, Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178,” said Erdogan, “Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.” Erdogan went on to say that he would like to build a mosque on that site. He bases this claim on an article written in 1996 by aYoussef Mroueh. In the article, Mroueh claims that Columbus made reference to the mosque in his diary.
Needless to say this is a dubious claim and it is easy to dismiss this as yet another one of Erdogan’s rantings. But I cannot help but think that Erdogan is trying to lay the groundwork for Muslims to claim that the Americas are Muslim lands as we are seeing in various Muslim communities across Europe. This might not come to pass anytime soon, but now that a prominent leader in the Muslim world has made this statement I wonder if its currency will begin to grow in earnest.