Muslims discovered the Americas nearly 300 years before Christopher Columbus and a mosque should be built in Cuba to commemorate the occasion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech Saturday. Erdogan made the remarks while addressing a conference in Istanbul of Muslim scholars from Latin America.
"Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast," Erdogan said, according to Agence France-Presse. He said Turkey should construct a mosque on the hill referenced by Columbus. "I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today,” he said.
The idea that a Muslim explorer made it to the Americas before Columbus was posited by the historian Youssef Mroueh in a 1996 article, who claimed Columbus’ diary mentioned a mosque. Erdogan referenced Mroueh’s contentious work in his speech on Saturday.
"Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus," Erdogan said.
Turkey’s conservative leader has been known for making controversial remarks. Earlier this year he said Israel has been more brutal than late Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.
Israelis “have no conscience, no honor, no pride. They curse Hitler day and night, but they have surpassed Hitler in barbarism," he said in July.
Erdogan also takes a hardline stance on abortion and came out against births by caesarean section, which he called “unnecessary” and “unnatural.”
"There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother's stomach and killing a baby after birth,” he said in 2012, according to the BBC.