You have to hand it to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has a knack for turning a non-consequential, perhaps even boring, gathering into mind-boggling global news. On Nov. 15, Erdogan gave a closing speech at the Latin American Muslim Leaders Summit in Istanbul. Not even 10 minutes into his speech, Erdogan said: “The introduction of Islam into the American continent dates back to the 12th century. It is claimed that [Christopher] Columbus discovered the continent in 1492. However, 314 years before Columbus, in 1178, Muslim sailors reached the American continent. Indeed, in Columbus’ diaries there is a reference to a mosque on a hill near the sea shore. We can have a talk with my Cuban brother here [referring to the delegate from Cuba to the summit]. A mosque would suit well on that hill today, if they allow it.”
The audience is seen clapping with enthusiasm as the camera focuses on some delegates with big grins. While I was watching it live, I thought Erdogan's comment was a joke in the spirit of the moment. Yet, Erdogan was serious.