'Muslims discovered the Americas, not Columbus': Turkish president

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Columbus’ own description of a mosque on a hill in Cuba shows Muslims already had arrived, but most scholars dismiss the diary entry as being metaphorical
'Muslims discovered the Americas, not Columbus': Turkish president
By Courtney Trenwith
Sun 16 Nov 2014 02:36 PM

Muslims discovered the Americas three centuries before Christopher Columbus’ voyages that led to the migration of Europeans to the continent, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed.

Columbus mentioned a mosque on top of a hill in Cuba during his 1492 exploration, evidence that Muslims already had arrived, Erdogan said.

"Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus," the president said during a televised speech to a summit of Muslim leaders in Latin America.

"Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast."

Erdogan’s comments are similar to those Youssef Mroueh, an academic who wrote a paper in 1996 stating that Columbus’ own records proved Muslims had discovered the Americas before him.

"Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21, 1492 CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain," Mroueh wrote.

However, most scholars insist the "mosque" mentioned was a metaphorical allusion to a striking land feature, Ishaan Tharoor wrote in a blog for the Washington Post.

There have been no archaeological discoveries of Islamic structures pre-dating Columbus's arrival in the New World.

Ergogan, whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam, said he would like to discuss with Cuba building a mosque on the identified hill.

The first people to reach the Americas came from Asia. They are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait about 15,000 years ago.

The first European visitors to North America are widely thought to have been Norse explorers, about 500 years before Columbus.

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