- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2014

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Muslims first discovered the Americas in the 12th century, three centuries before the voyages of Christopher Columbus.

“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” Mr. Erdogan said during a speech at an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders from Latin America, the Agence France Presse reported Saturday.

“Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast,” Mr. Erdogan added.

The Turkish leader also suggested that a new mosque should be built at the site documented by Columbus.

“I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today,” he said.

But there is some debate as to whether or not such a mosque existed when Columbus set foot on the new world. No pre-Columbian ruin of an Islamic structure has been discovered.

PHOTOS: What are the chances?

In a 1996 article, historian Youssef Mroueh cited a diary entry by Columbus mentioning a mosque in Cuba, but the entry is widely interpreted as metaphorical reference to the landscape, according to Yahoo News.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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