Erdogan and Harvard: Muslims Discovered America!

You likely have seen that Turkish President Recep Erdogan told a gathering of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul that America was discovered by Muslim sailors:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus set foot there.

“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” the conservative president said in a televised speech during an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders 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.

As the linked article notes, scholars understand that Columbus referred to a mosque-shaped formation on the Cuban coast. The last of the Moors were driven from Spain in 1492, so Columbus would have been familiar with mosques. If there had been an actual mosque in Cuba, as opposed to a mosque-shaped rock formation, it would have been a news flash, to say the least.

But I was curious about the alleged date of the Islamic discovery of the New World, 1178. There had to be a story behind that claim. What is it?

The answer comes from Harvard’s Pluralism Project:

Islam in America

1178 CE Muslims Sail to America

A Chinese source known as the Sung Document records that Muslim sailors journeyed to a land known as Mu-Lan-Pi, which some Muslims identify as the American continent. This document is mentioned in the publication The Khotan Amirs, 1933.

This is madness. Is there any reason to think that “Mu-Lan-Pi” is America? None is stated. And while I assume that something called “The Khotan Amirs” was published in 1933, I can’t find any record of it. I sincerely doubt that it sheds any light on the discovery of the New World.

The Pluralism Project continues:

1300s CE African Muslims to the New World

According to some scholars, Abu Bakari, a king of the Muslim state of Mali in West Africa, initiated a series of sea voyages to North America beginning in the early 1300s. About the same time, Mandingo Muslims from Mali and other parts of West Africa are said to have arrived in the Gulf of Mexico and traveled up the Mississippi River to explore the interior of the North American continent.

Who these anonymous “scholars” might be, and who says that Mandingo Muslims traveled up the Mississippi, Harvard doesn’t tell us. Again, this is silly. America was not discovered in a vacuum. Columbus’s first voyage followed many years of increasingly bold exploration by Spanish, Portuguese and English sailors. We know about these expeditions. Where are the Mandingo Muslims from Mali in this story? They aren’t in it at all, nor is there any record of them wandering around the interior of North America.

This humoring of ahistorical Islamic pretensions is analogous to the everyone-gets-a-medal mentality of contemporary elementary schools. Who discovered America? Everyone did! But here, there is a serious undertone. Islam is a supremacist ideology, and taking seriously its claims to be first and best, where those claims are plainly false, feeds that ideology. Moreover, radical Muslims’ flexible views of history can be put to nefarious ends: the absurd claim that Jews have no connection to the Holy Land is first cousin to the delusion that Abu Bakari preceded Columbus to North America.

Harvard’s motto is “Veritas,” which means “truth.” But when it comes to revisionist Islamic history, Harvard’s Pluralism Project seems willing to throw truth overboard like an unlucky sailor.

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