The Muslims who discovered America

By Joseph Farah

In anticipation of Columbus Day, I’ve been educating myself on the Muslims who discovered America.

You mean you didn’t know that Muslims were in America before Columbus?

You didn’t know Muslim navigators took Columbus by the hand and led him to a little island in the Bahamas known as Guanahani, a settlement of Islamic Mandinkas from Africa?

You hadn’t heard about the Muslims from both Spain and West Africa who sailed to America at least five centuries before Columbus?

Yes, this is the new uni-cultural rage with the U.S. Muslim community. There are seminars in major cities and mosques all over the United States this week explaining how Muslims discovered America. That’s how they are going to be celebrating Columbus Day.

Sure, it’s funny, in its own perverse way. But it ought to serve as a warning to Americans who, despite being at war with Islamism, continue, naively, to think of Islam as just one of the three great monotheistic faiths – no more threatening to Western civilization than Christianity and Judaism, the very building blocks of that civilization.

Real Americans understand the contributions of Christopher Columbus. They understand his contributions to the founding of America – regardless of whether he was the first European to reach the New World or not.

Real Americans don’t try to disparage Columbus’ real contributions to the founding of America.

Real Americans don’t attempt to co-opt a national holiday commemorating an American historical hero by offering unsubstantiated, self-serving conjecture about the role their own ethnic and religious group played in the founding.

I’m not saying Islam played no role in the discovery of America, by the way. In fact, I think it’s quite clear from the historical record that Islam played a profound role.

In 1492, when Columbus set sail from Spain, he was hoping to find a sea route to India and the Orient. His trip was sponsored by the Spanish throne, which had just succeeded in ousting the Muslim invaders from Granada, the last Moorish stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula. Islam had developed a foothold in Spain 600 years earlier.

Though Islam had been defeated in Spain, it still controlled the crossroads to the East. Caravans headed from Europe to India to trade would be forced to pay tribute or face attack at the hands of Muslims. Thus, a sea route, bypassing the traditional land routes, would mean new trade between East and West.

Thus, in a very real way, Columbus’ venture west was a direct result of the conflict raging still in the 15th century between the Christian world and the Islamic world.

It is this conflict, by the way, that, more than any other factor, defines world history between the 8th century and the 21st. Americans have little concept of that history. Even Europeans have lost their collective memory of the conquest they faced during that time period. Yet, one cannot comprehend the significance of the terror America faces today without this historical background.

This terror war we find ourselves fighting is not a relatively fleeting conflict. It’s not one that will be over when Osama bin Laden is dead. It’s not one that will be over after the U.S. invades Iraq. It’s not one that will be over if and when a Palestinian state is created. This is a long-term struggle. It’s a conflict that has raged for more than 1,200 years. America is just getting a taste of what the rest of the world has been experiencing since the time of Muhammad.

Little did Columbus know when he set sail in 1492 to find a sea route to the East, that he would discover a New World – one free of the conflicts of the old world, one free of the entanglements, one that would be the destination of freedom-seeking people for the next 500 years. He also could not have foreseen how the same conflict he was attempting to escape would come home to this New World 509 years later in a most dramatic and tragic way – on Sept. 11, 2001.

We can’t escape history. We can’t rewrite it. We can only learn from it.

Thank you, Christopher Columbus. And happy Columbus Day, America.