Harvard Zoologist Quoted To Prove Erdoğan’s Columbus Claim

Pro-government media outlets in Turkey are racing with each other to prove that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was right in his recent claim that the Americas were discovered by Muslim sailors long before Christopher Columbus.

“Studies of American historians show that Islam reached the Americas in the 650s,” daily Akşam reported Nov. 17. One of the “historians” that the article referred to, however, raised some eyebrows on Turkish social media.

“According to the study conducted between 1940-50 by Prof. Barry Fell from Harvard University, Islam arrived in the Americas in the 650s,” the newspaper said, claiming that the ruins of Islamic religious schools, or madrasahs, were found in places like Colorado, New Mexico and Indiana.

Barry Fell, who lived between 1917-1994, was a controversial figure regarding the subject. As a professor at Harvard for invertebrate zoology, most of his claims about the arrival of Islam in the Americas were dismissed by mainstream scholars and experts on the field.

Akşam also claimed, this time without quoting a source, that ancient Arabic writings were found near mountains in Nevada in the 1950s. One of them reading “The devil is the source of all lies” and “Hamid,” an Arabic name, was written on another stone older than 1360 years, according to the article.

While pro-government televisions hosted pundits who insistently argued that Erdoğan’s claim was scientific, some columnists mocked it. “Our president is right, but his words are missing something. Those who discovered the Americas were not only Muslims, but also Turks,” Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan sarcastically wrote Nov. 17.

“I don’t think that our president, who is not in good terms with books, read Columbus’ diaries in his free time. Apparently, one of his advisors supplied him with wrong information after a quick surf on the Internet, putting him in an awkward position,” Cem Mumcu, a Cumhuriyet columnist said.

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