Skip to main content

Erdogan attempts to bury policy failures by rewriting history

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rewrites history with dubious sources in an attempt to change the national agenda.
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the opening ceremony of an imam-hatip school in Ankara November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS RELIGION) - RTR4ELDA

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.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.