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'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan

He claims that Columbus saw a mosque on top of a mountain in Cuba

Lamiat Sabin
Sunday 16 November 2014 13:34 GMT
President Tayyip Erdogan
President Tayyip Erdogan (AFP/Getty)

Muslim sailors reached the Americas more than 300 years before Christopher Columbus, suggested Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday.

Addressing an audience of Muslim leaders from South America at a summit in Istanbul, Erdogan claimed that the link between Islam and Latin America dates as far back as the early 12th century.

He said: "It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492. In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178."

"Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast... I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today," he added.

His statements echo assertions made by historian Youssef Mroueh that Middle Eastern and North African explorers sailed west to America from the Muslim parts of Spain before returning home prior to Columbus' expedition.

However, some scholars have counter-argued these claims by saying that the mountain was described as looking like a mosque and that the reference to the Islamic place of worship is metaphorical.

The Sung Document, an unauthenticated Chinese work dated around 1178, claims that Muslim sailors reached a region named "Mu-Lan-Pi", which is believed to refer to Moorish Spain and parts of America, such as California.

It is also claimed that Muslims from West Africa explored America via the Mississippi River after allegedly arriving at the Gulf of Mexico in 1312.

It has been claimed that no archaeological evidence exists of Muslims having lived in the Americas before Italian explorer Columbus made his expedition in 1492 on behalf of the Spanish crown.

Identifying the first American colonialists has long been a hotly-disputed issue with various scholars and historians claiming that others arrived before Columbus, with suggestions that Vikings reached the continent by the 10th century despite allegedly not forming permanent settlements.

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