Did the Muslims Discover America?

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The most recent claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Muslims reached the Americas 300 years before Christopher Columbus did is not a new assertion. Many Muslim scholars have said the same thing for at least 20 years—laying claim that either Arab or African or Turkish explorers ventured into the Atlantic to the Americas and had influenced the people of this continent long before Columbus ever came. It is all nice and fine, but there is not a shred of physical evidence to show this was ever the case. On top of the fact that no Native American words are derived from Arabic, that no part of any Native American religion bares any resemblance to Islam, and that the DNA of the Native American peoples today have no Arab, African or Turkish ancestry (which would be the case if the Muslims had arrived in the Americas centuries before and intermingled with the people on this continent), there is obviously no physical evidence that any Muslim expeditions had ever reached the Americas.

I will simply give the whole assertion the status of a theory—not proven but not dis-proven either (most non-Muslims and many Muslims would call it hogwash). So far, there is no physical evidence that Muslims had come to this country long before the Europeans did. There are no physical remains of what would have been mosques, no artifacts such as Arabic coins (aside from those found in archaeological layers where European contact had already been established), and no mention of any “strange, weird people” in any of the surviving Native American records. Of course, one can say that there is no record of the Vikings either, and we know that the Vikings had landed on part of the Americas in or around the year 1000 A.D. We know this because we have physical evidence of a Viking settlement at L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in what is now Canada. But this settlement was relatively isolated—Native Americans rarely visited the area and hence had little contact with the Vikings. Archaeological evidence shows that this was a largely wooded area with abundant wild animals the Vikings could use for food. But when the wild animals ran out, there was no real way for the Viking colony to support itself and it left after being at L’anse aux Meadows for about 160 years.

The Vikings, the only non-native people proven to have been in the Americas before Columbus, had zero impact on the Native Americans, and left no DNA or any other imprint in the Americas at all. Although their presence in the Americas was recorded by the German monk Adam of Bremen in 1073, this chapter was soon forgotten, and the Americas would remain unknown to any other continent until Columbus not only “discovered” it, but put this continent permanently on the map. Considering how highly developed the Islamic Caliphate of Baghdad was in the 11th Century, why was there no real mention of this place? Why are there no detailed maps? Why cannot we find any physical evidence of what might have existed in the Americas of the time being brought back to the Middle East or North Africa? The Spanish explorers brought back many things from their expeditions of the Americas, so why did not the Muslim explorers? I guess people will believe in what they want, but as far as I am concerned it is a theory without even circumstantial evidence that is at best unproven, and at worst unfounded.

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