John Hamed, Jr. repeats as fact several myths about Muslims. The first one, discussed in the previous piece, is the claim made by the zoologist and amateur epigraphist Barry Fell, of an Arab presence in the New World as early as 700 A.D. This was followed by the three distinct claims made by Muslim “scholars” about Muslims and Christopher Columbus. These are: first, the assertion that Columbus’s navigator was an “Arab” and “Muslim”; second, that the Pinzon brothers, one of whom was captain of the Nina and the other the captain of the Pinta, were Muslims (or Moriscos, outwardly converts to Catholicism); third, that Columbus recorded in his papers having seen a “mosque” on top of a mountain in Cuba.
Let’s deal with that last claim first, that “mosque sighting” in Cuba. It was first reported by a certain “Dr.” Youssef Mroueh in an article in 1996. There is no record of a “Youssef Mroueh” receiving a doctoral degree, nor of any Youssef Mroueh with an academic affiliation. And in the article, “Dr. Mroueh” claims, without quoting the original words of Columbus’s papers, that he noted “seeing a mosque.” Here is Youssef Mroueh: “Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 [sic] CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain.”
Note that word “admitted,” as if Columbus had wanted to hide any evidence of a Muslim presence in Cuba.
Why did Youssef Mroueh not quote Columbus? Here’s why: Columbus wrote “Señala la disposición del río y del puerto…, que tiene sus montañas hermosas y altas…, y una de ellas tiene encima otro montecillo a manera de una hermosa mezquita.”
[unnamed editor] Relaciones y Cartas de Cristóbal Colón (1892), p. 49
In English: “Remarking on the position of the river and port…, he [Columbus] describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful…, and one of them has another little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque.” — Clements R. Markham (tr.), The Journal of Christopher Columbus (1893), pp. 62-3
Columbus did not write that he had seen a mosque but, rather, that he had seen one hill atop another, looking “like a graceful mosque.” Youssef Mroueh surely knew this, but didn’t want to let his readers know it. So he didn’t quote from Columbus, changed the description from a simile (X is like Y, the hill is like a mosque) and made it a straight description (“there’s a graceful mosque on the hill”), and hoped he could get away with it. And in fact, his version has been accepted by some Muslims, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who claimed in 2014 that “In his memoirs [sic], Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque atop a hill on the coast of Cuba.”
Columbus never did.
And just as baseless, and absurd, was Erdogan’s claim in the same 2014 speech that “Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus. Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178.” Again, not a scrap of evidence. But such myths serve to feed Islamic pride. Many Muslims do believe such stories, and dismiss any attempts by Westerners to disabuse them not as truth-seeking but as examples of attempts to deny Muslim achievements.
Columbus and His “Arab” Navigator
The next claim made by Muslims is that Columbus had an “Arab” navigator.
Some Muslims have claimed that Columbus did employ two Muslims, on his own ship, one as a navigator, and another as an interpreter. They are flatly wrong. Let’s consider the claims made that Christopher Columbus included Muslims in his crew. Not only is there not a shred of evidence to support this, but what evidence there is goes the other way. Columbus undertook his voyages because he wanted to discover an alternate route for Europeans to Asia, i.e., India, with its spices, precisely because Muslims had, with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, managed to seal off the old trade routes to the East from Christian Europe. Columbus, a devout Christian, who claimed the territories he discovered for “los reyes católicos” (the Christian monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella), would never have taken on members of the enemy camp (of Islam) for his crew, and especially would not have entrusted the critical job of navigator to a Muslim. But so effective has this Muslim rewriting of history been that in 2004, a State Department employee put out a claim about Columbus’s Muslim crew members: in a press release entitled “Islamic Influence Runs Deep in American Culture,” Phyllis McIntosh of the State Department’s Washington File claimed that “Islamic influences may date back to the very beginning of American history. It is likely that Christopher Columbus, who discovered America in 1492, charted his way across the Atlantic Ocean with the help of an Arab navigator.”
No, it is not “likely.” It never happened. The State Department was falsifying history, in order to win favor among Muslims, both here and abroad.
Why did McIntosh make this absurd claim, even though “may date back” and “it is likely that” are weasel words providing an escape-hatch of deniability? How did she make the leap from no evidence to “may date back” and from “may” to “likely”? And even if, which did not happen, one crew member had turned out to be an “Arab” and thus a Muslim, how would that allow us to conclude that “Islamic influence runs deep in American culture”? What kind of “Islamic influence” would a single crew member have had on Columbus’s voyages, with all the other crew members on all three ships being Christians (or conversos, Jews who had accepted Catholicism), or on the subsequent discovery and settlement of the New World? McIntosh was pulling rabbits out of an ahistorical hat. She, and the State Department for which she worked, either felt there was no harm in trying to curry favor with Muslims (history is silly putty to some; they shape it as they will), or were under pressure to rewrite history, possibly from Obama’s office (he was constantly prating about how “Islam has always been a part of the American story”), as part of a feelgood outreach campaign to American Muslims. But where did this particular story, about Columbus’s “Arab navigator,” come from?
It came from Muslims themselves. And it is based on a case of mistaken identity. For it was Muslims who, when they learned of an “Arabic-speaking Spaniard” on Columbus’s first voyage, decided that this must refer to a Muslim Arab. In fact, the reference was to one Luis de Torres, a converso (a Jew who accepted Catholicism). Luis de Torres knew Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, and some Arabic, and was taken on not as a navigator but as an interpreter by Columbus, who thought his knowledge of Hebrew would be useful if in Asia they ran into any Jewish traders (who were known to travel far and wide) or into members of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. But Muslims, in their eagerness to put themselves into the picture with Columbus, have committed two historical errors: first, they thought that the interpreter, the “Arabic-speaking Spaniard” Luis de Torres, was the navigator, and then they assumed that if someone on Columbus’s crew spoke Arabic, as Torres did, he must have been an Arab and a Muslim. Wrong on both counts.
The Pinzón Brothers Were Muslims
At some Muslim sites it is claimed that the Pinzón brothers, Martin Alonso Pinzón, the captain of the Pinta, and his brother Vicente Pinzón, the captain of the Nina, were Muslims. There is even the further claim that the Pinzón family were related to Abuzayan Muhammad III, the Moroccan Sultan of the Marinid Dynasty. I have read everything about the Pinzón brothers I could find online. Should you wish to do as well, you could start here.
Having done so, I have been unable to find a single Western historian who believes that the Pinzóns were Muslims, or of Muslim descent.
I did find a Muslim website that asserts the following:
“On his first voyage to India, Columbus had two captains with Muslim family backgrounds, Martin Alonso Pinzon, the captain of the Pinta, and his brother Vicente Yanez Pinzon, the captain of the Nina. The Pinzon family was related to Abuzayan Muhammad III, the Moroccan Sultan of the Marinid Dynasty (1196-1465).”
No sources are supplied for this claim. Just after this assertion, on the same Muslim website, comes another remarkable, because baseless, claim, about the Chinese admiral Zheng He, who was a Muslim:
“A Chinese Muslim, Admiral Zheng He, visited Americas during his seven maritime expeditions between 1405 and 1433.”
A link is then given to a story which, presumably, supplies the evidence for this assertion. I dutifully clicked on that link, here. Then I read it, and discovered that there is no reference — none — to Zheng He’s travels to “the Americas during his seven maritime voyages.” The article mentions only travels to Asia and Africa. There apparently were no travels by Zheng He to the Americas.
The Muslim writer of this website apparently believes that if he gives a link, many people will assume the supporting material is there, and not bother to check. He may be right.
The same writer makes several other, equally baseless, claims about the pre-Columbus landings of Muslims in America.
There is, for example, this: “In 1312, Muslim explorers from Mali and other parts of West Africa arrived in the Gulf of Mexico for exploration of Americas interior using the Mississippi River as their access route.’”
I again searched for any evidence for this claim; I could find nothing anywhere on the Internet, except the crazed paper by the notorious “scholar” Youssef Mroueh, who lists a series of claims about Muslims landing in America long before Columbus. He relies both on Fell and on his own vivid imagination. To understand the scope of his wild claims, read his paper on “Precolumbian Muslims in the Americas” here.
Thus, the same Muslim who wants us to believe without any evidence that the Pinzón brothers were Muslims, also wants us to believe, again without evidence, that Admiral Zheng He landed in America, though he never claimed to have done so, and to believe, also without any evidence, that in 1312, sailors — from the desert kingdom of Mali — arrived in the Gulf of Mexico, and then sailed up the Mississippi to explore the American heartland. Again, no evidence is presented.
These are all fables. But the truth doesn’t matter for Muslim propagandists. Let the story appear, at some website, an assertion without any evidence. Then let it be reposted, at another website, again without any evidence. And then let it be reposted yet again, still without evidence. By now it has appeared in enough places so that for many it becomes the truth. Why? Because when a story appears in several places, many think it must be true. For if it had been false, surely it would not have been reposted. And then there is the respect for authority. Barry Fell was a professor at Harvard. Few will have learned that he was a professor of invertebrate zoology. They will be impressed, unaware that he is regarded as a crazed crank and perhaps a deliberate fraud, in his epigraphic and archaeological claims, by all of the professionals who have reviewed his “evidence.” Then there is deliberate misreading: Columbus says a hilltop “looked like a mosque” becomes, for “Dr.” Youssef Mroueh, and then for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “on a hilltop I saw a mosque.”
There is not just fake news. There is also fake history. And a lot of that fake history has to do with supposed accomplishments of Muslims, such as the discovery, exploration, and settlement of the New World. The next time you read the story of the Pinzón brothers being Muslim, ask yourself why this was never mentioned during the 500 years after Columbus’s first voyage, why not a single historian mentioned it even as a remote possibility, and why this story only appeared in the last two decades, when Islamic propaganda has been in full swing on the Internet.
It has to be repeated that Barry Fell was neither a trained archaeologist nor an expert in epigraphy. His studies in this area were completely rejected by those who were experts in these fields. They didn’t reject this or that aspect of Fell’s work, but rather, declared his study of “inscriptions” of supposed pre-Columbian Old World settlers in the New World to be completely without merit. Some believed he was carrying on a scam for fame and money (greater sales for his books such as the much-reprinted America B.C.); others deemed him self-deluded, a crackpot, which is what, having read as much of his stuff as I could endure, I take him to be.
Yet Muslims are prepared to accept his views, ignoring his professional reputation, because he places Muslim Arabs in America as early as 650 A.D. (in Nevada!). And in the same uncritical spirit, some accept Youssef Mroueh as an authority when he spins stories about Mandinka speakers from Mali in America in the fourteenth century, or Columbus sighting a mosque on a hilltop in Cuba. Or still others make up a story about the Pinzón brothers being either Muslims, or of Muslim descent.