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Why does Turkey want to build a mosque in Catholic Cuba?

Why does Turkey want to build a mosque in Catholic Cuba?
By Chris Harris with REUTERS
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Turkey president Tayyip Erdogan has proposed building a mosque in Cuba amid his belief Muslims discovered the Americas, it’s emerged.

Erdogan made the suggestion to Cuban president Raul Castro during a recent visit to Havana, reports Reuters.

It is unclear what response Erdogan received in predominantly Catholic Cuba, which is home to just a few thousand Muslims.

Turkey’s president told a conference in Istanbul last November that Muslims had reached the Americas in the 1100s, ahead of European explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Erdogan has based the proposal on a mosque in the Ortakoy district of Istanbul.

“I presented all the information, project work and visuals regarding the Ortakoy mosque. ‘We will do this ourselves. We don’t want a partner. If you find it appropriate we want to do this’,” Erdogan’s presidential website quoted him as saying of his talks with Castro.

Erdogan also told reporters the Cuban government had agreed with Saudi Arabia on a similar project some time ago. In light of this, his planned mosque could be built elsewhere in Cuba, he said.

The largest mosque in Latin America is the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to Reuters. Closer to Cuba, the Caribbean nations of Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname have significant Muslim populations.

Erdogan’s assertion that Muslims reached pre-Columbian Americas was based on a reference to a mosque-like formation at the top of a mountain in Columbus’ diary of his voyages. He told the conference in November ‘a mosque today would suit the top of that mountain’.

Most scholars believe that reference was to a natural mountain feature rather than an actual mosque.

Mostly Muslim Turkey has only slight trade ties with Cuba and Erdogan’s visit is part of a Latin American tour also taking in visits to Colombia and Mexico.

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