Europe

Muslims found Americas before Columbus says Turkey's Erdogan

  • 15 November 2014
  • From the section Europe
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey on 29 October 2014
Image caption Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered little evidence to support his claim

Muslims discovered the Americas more than three centuries before Christopher Columbus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

He made the claim during a conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, pointing to a diary entry in which Columbus mentioned a mosque on a hill in Cuba.

Mr Erdogan also said "Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178".

He said he was willing to build a mosque at the site Columbus identified.

The Turkish president - whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam - gave no further evidence to back up his theory, instead stating: "Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th Century."

Controversial article

Columbus is widely believed to have discovered the Americas in 1492, while trying to find a new route to India.

But in a disputed article published in 1996, historian Youssef Mroueh said Columbus' entry was proof that Muslims had reached the Americas first and that "the religion of Islam was widespread".

However many scholars believe the reference is metaphorical, describing an aspect of the mountain that resembled part of a mosque.

No Islamic structures have been found in America that pre-date Columbus.

Mr Erdogan said he thought "a mosque would go perfectly on the hill today" and that he would like to discuss building this with Cuba.

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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