The Independent gave the translation differently:
It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492. In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178. […] Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast... I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today.
Erdogan, in his comments, refers obliquely to a passage in Columbus’s Journal of the First Voyage from October 29, 1492, which is repeated in slightly different form in Bartolomé de las Casas’s Historia de las Indias at 1.44. What is published today as Columbus’s journal is not the original writings by Columbus but a collection of excerpts and summaries made by Las Casas, for the original texts are lost. Las Casas used them for his Historia, and his notes were published by Martin Fernandez de Navarette in Colección de los viajes y descubrimientos in 1825. If that seems confusing, the text itself makes plain that no mosque is involved:
Remarking on the position of the river and port, to which he [Columbus] gave the name of San Salvador, he describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful, like the Peña de las Enamoradas, and one of them has another little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque. The other river and port, in which he now was, has two round mountains to the S.W., and a fine low cape running out to the W.S.W.
For those interested in the spread of claims for Muslim discovery of America, I direct you again to Richard V. Francaviglia of Willamette University, who wrote about the topic at great length (36 pages) in an article called “Beyond the Western Sea of the Arabs” in the September 2014 edition of Terrae Incognitae (46, no. 2).
At any rate, as a result of Erdogan’s comments, visits to my website from Turkey have exploded, and my articles on Islamic voyages to America have gone viral on Turkish discussion boards and social media. So, when someone asks why I evaluate extreme claims about history, this is a perfect example. Extreme claims find their way into public discourse for the most unusual of reasons.
Last night I began rolling out some updated graphics and a modified color scheme to help my website look fresher and more modern. This is only the second major change I’ve made to the website since it launched in 2010. My first graphics package lasted from 2010 to 2012, and the second version from 2012 to 2014. After two years, the old graphics were looking a little dated. The most noticeable of the changes is the title card that welcomes visitors to my website.
This web of connections overlays a picture of the ruins of Babylon and an image of a globe rotated to show North America. The black-and-white design of the background is an evolution away from the heavy use of green in my previous logo, and the combination of stone and a gray earth also recalls the imagery of Universal Horror, a nod to the connection between fringe history and speculative fiction. I’ve also toned down the header to a richer shade of green.
I’ll continue tweaking the graphics over the next few weeks, and I’ll gradually be replacing many of the supporting graphics with updated versions. I hope to use the image of a little green box with a fringe history symbol as a unifying theme to link graphics. We’ll see how well it goes, but the new blog logo is my (rough) draft of how that might work.