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Ankara (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday hit back at ridicule of his claim that Islamic explorers discovered the Americas three centuries before Columbus, accusing his Muslim critics of lacking “self-confidence”.
In an aggressive rebuttal of the criticism heaped in some quarters on his comments, Erdogan also suggested that the purported “discovery” of the Americas by Muslims should be taught in schools.
“A big responsibility falls on the shoulders of the national education ministry and YOK (higher education board) on this issue,” Erdogan said at a ceremony in Ankara.
“If the history of science is written objectively, it will be seen that Islamic geography’s contribution to science is much more than what’s known,” Erdogan said in televised comments.
Erdogan, a pious Muslim who has been in power for more than a decade, stirred up controversy on Saturday when he claimed the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus.
He cited as evidence for his claim that “Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.”
On Tuesday, Erdogan insisted that “very respected scientists in Turkey and in the world” supported his claim.
“Some youth of our country have begun objecting to this without doing any research or paying attention to discussions. Not only youths but also some very senior figures have begun disputing it.