In a speech delivered on November 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Muslim sailors had reached the American continent in 1178, 314 years before Columbus. He was speaking at a summit of Latin American Muslim leaders held in Istanbul.
Following are excerpts:
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Latin America's acquaintance with Islam goes back to the 12th century. The American continent is said to have been discovered in 1492 by Colombus. However, 314 years before Columbus, in 1178, Muslim sailors reached the American continent. That was in 1178. Even Christopher Columbus, in his journals, mentions a mosque on a mountaintop in Cuba, visible from the shore.
This could be a matter of discussion between me and my colleague from Cuba: Today, too, it would be fitting to have a mosque on that mountaintop. If only they would allow us to build it… In other words, before Columbus discovered America, Islam had already developed and spread in that continent.
Let me also share with you a very important difference. The ottoman state and other Islamic states, in their endeavors to spread the world of Allah in Latin America, never used their religion as a tool for political gains. Islam was never ever used as a tool for exploitation, colonization, or subjugation. [Westerners] used their religion to facilitate the exploitation and subjugation of peoples, whereas Muslims and Islamic states were interested only in spreading the word of Allah, in conquering hearts, and in elevating the name of Allah.