Turkey is adding insult to injury. After three U.S. servicemen were assaulted there last week, President Erdogan claims it was Muslims who discovered America.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly 300 years before famous Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus had arrived there, AFP reports.
“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” Erdogan said in a speech during an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders from Latin America. “Muslim sailors arrived in America from 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,” Erdogan stated, referring to a spot on which Columbus allegedly saw a mosque when he arrived on the shores of Cuba.
According to recorded history, Columbus set foot on the American continent in 1492 while seeking a new maritime route to India.
AFP reports that a minority of Muslim scholars have recently suggested a prior Muslim presence in the Americas, although no pre-Columbus ruin of any Islamic structure has ever been found.
AFP quotes a controversial article published in 1996, in which historian Youssef Mroueh refers to a diary entry from Columbus that mentions a mosque in Cuba. The passage is widely understood to be a metaphorical reference to the shape of the landscape.
Furthermore, there is no historical documentation of a Muslim presence in the Americas prior to Columbus.
Inflamed Anti-American Sentiment in Turkey
Erdogan’s controversial allegation comes just days after three American servicemen were assaulted in Istanbul by Turkish Muslim nationalists.
Three U.S. Navy sailors were attacked on a crowded street in Istanbul, where they had paint thrown at them and hoods pulled over their faces. The assailants are members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union (TGB).
The U.S. embassy condemned the attack, calling it “appalling.” The Pentagon said that shore leave is cancelled in Turkey for other servicemen from the U.S. Navy.