Turkish President Recep Erdogan is claiming that Muslim sailors reached the Americas more than 300 years before explorer Christopher Columbus. Speaking yesterday at a gathering of Muslim leaders from Latin America, Erdogan says that contact between Islam and Latin America dates to the 12th century. "It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492," Erdogan says. "In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178. In his memoirs, Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque atop a hill on the coast of Cuba." Erdogan adds that he'd like to see a mosque built on the hilltop today.
Scholars have disputed the claim in Columbus' writings, saying there is no archaeological evidence of Muslims having lived in the Americas before Columbus, an Italian, made his expedition in 1492 on behalf of the Spanish crown. Who discovered the Americas has long been a controversial issue with various scholars and historians claiming that others arrived before Columbus. More specifically, they say that Asians peopled the Americas roughly 15,000 years ago after crossing the Bering Strait, and the first Europeans there were likely Norse explorers who predated Columbus by 500 years, the BBC reports. (Read more Recep Tayyip Erdogan stories.)