In a speech on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Christopher Columbus did not discover America. In fact, according to Erdogan, it was discovered by Muslims almost 300 years before Columbus ever landed. Erdogan went on to say that Columbus mentioned a hill on the coast of Cuba that has a mosque standing on top of it. He said that a mosque should be built by Turkey on top of the hill that Columbus spoke of. He said he would like to speak to his “Cuban brothers” about it.
These comments were made in an address at a conference of Latin American Muslim scholars in Istanbul. According to Erdogan, Islam was prominent before Columbus arrived in the 15th century. He said that Muslim sailors landed in 1178 on the coasts of America and that contact between Islam and Latin America goes back as far as the 12th century.
The Turkish president saying that Christopher Columbus did not discover America comes from a paper written in 1996 by Youssef Mroueh, who is a member of the As-Sunnah Foundation of America. The foundation seeks to unite Muslims across the U.S. and stop the political and national divisions that are causing strife in the community. Mroueh wrote that on Oct. 21, 1492, Columbus saw a mosque on a mountain on the coast of Cuba near Gibara. It is widely believed that this reference is of a mountain that Columbus says reminds him of a mosque. Despite this, a growing number of Muslim scholars believe this and are seeking to prove that Islam came before Christianity in the New World.
Other things that contribute to this belief include the idea that old engravings found in the Americas look like Muslim fonts. There are references of journeys made by Muslims as long ago as the 11th century that were trans-Atlantic expeditions that brought back gold. In addition there are theories that say that American Indian names were, in fact, mutilated versions of Islamic words. There have been no archaeological discoveries to prove these theories.
This is not the first time that Erdogan has made controversial remarks of this nature. The 60-year-old conservative leader has also spoken about the impact that both Christianity and Islam have had on territories once they have been claimed by the religion. He said that conversions by force have never the way of Islam and that the religion has never been used to exploit. He contrasted this to Christianity using three examples. He said that the European Christians chose to colonize America for gold, then did the same to Africa for diamonds and that now it is being done in the Middle East for oil.
Currently Islamic militias across the globe are converting territories through force and violence while stating that they are practicing the teachings in the Koran. The Islamic State and Boko Haram have been establishing territories in Iraq and Syria through the practice of jihad. While this does not reflect the majority of behavior shown by practitioners of Islam, it does directly conflict with the comments made by President Erdogan.
The Turkish president saying that Christopher Columbus did not discover America is not likely to have many serious repercussions. There were plans designed by a Turkish company to build a mosque in Cuba for their Muslim population, however, the future of the construction “remains undecided” amid rumors of the plan not being approved by Cuban authorities.
By Clara Goode
Photo Source: Andy Mettler – Flickr License