Those who spoke on behalf of Latin American Muslims at a recent summit in İstanbul are not the right people to represent the Muslims of the region, some Latin American Muslims have said.
Jamal Saker, the president of the Islamic Association of Panama, told Today’s Zaman that the speaker billed as the representative of Panamanian Muslims at the first Latin American Muslim Leaders’ Summit, which was held in İstanbul in mid-November, is in fact a lawyer and has faced charges of aggravated fraud in the past.
Saker also criticized the Religious Affairs Directorate (DİB) over the selection of irrelevant and untrustworthy individuals as representatives at the religious summit. He added that they will bring a lawsuit against the speaker who climbed the podium at the conference on behalf of Panamanian Muslims.
Speaking to the Cihan news agency, an anonymous Panamanian Muslim made similar statements, saying that the speaker who represented Panamanian Muslims in the conference is known for cheating people in Panama. “He deceived Turkish students in Panama by collecting money from them to assist them in obtaining visas. However, those students were let down by him,” he added.
He also added that the speaker who represented Guatemala in the conference is a member of a religious organization that finances terrorist activities.
–Latin American Muslims uneasy over gov’t political agenda veiled under religion
The representatives of the Muslim groups in Latin America also voiced unease, saying that they felt as though they are being used as tools for the Turkish government to further its political agenda. Claudio Santos, a Brazilian Muslim who attended the conference, told Cihan that after listening to a speech by Halid Takiyyuddin, who gave a speech to Brazilian Muslims at the conference, he concluded that the Turkish government plans to collaborate with the heads of Muslim communities in Brazil in order to further its Islamic agenda in the country.
“The Turkish government assists Brazilian [Muslim] communities by financing their activities and building mosques. Such developments are seen by Muslims in Brazil as insincere and aimed at furthering a political agenda. Unfortunately, [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s moves could create a rift [among Muslims in Brazil] instead of solidarity,” Santos added.
Erdoğan claimed at the summit said that Muslims, rather than Christopher Columbus, discovered the Americas, a claim which the international press has reacted to with skepticism, likening the remark to other baffling and arrogant statements from the Turkish leader.
At the conference, Erdoğan said: “Muslim sailors arrived on the shores of America in 1178. In his diary, Christopher Columbus noted the presence of a mosque on top of a mountain in Cuba.” It has since been clarified that Columbus’s diary likely refers to a hill whose topography resembles the dome or minaret of a mosque, and the majority of historians agree that no evidence has been found of pre-Columbian Islamic structures in North or South America.
The Washington Post, recalling Erdoğan’s divisive remarks on “political rivals, ethnic minorities or social media websites,” evaluated the recent claim as “less incendiary” while also stating that such speculation about the discovery of the Americas is neither new nor convincing.
The Spanish daily El Pais noted, opining that Erdoğan is “increasingly disconnected from reality,” that the document referred to by Erdoğan is not the original diary of Columbus but a summary of it composed by friar and historian Bartolomé de las Casas.
Despite a lack of historical evidence for such a building, Erdoğan went on to say: “Now I will talk with my brother from Cuba [the representative at the summit]. A mosque would be fitting on top of that mountain today as well. Their permission is sufficient [for Turkey to build a mosque there].”
However, efforts from DİB to gain permission for a mosque styled on İstanbul’s Ortaköy Mosque in Havana this year were reportedly rejected by the government of Cuban leader Raul Castro on the grounds that “it’s not necessary,” despite the opening of a Russian Orthodox church in 2008. (Cihan/Today’s Zaman)