Christopher Columbus
Statue of Christopher Columbus in BaltimoreFlickr

Saudi Arabia's Imam Issa Assiri has made a bizarre claim that Muslims were already present in what is now known as America, before Christopher Columbus ever sailed there.

Assiri while speaking at the Sa'eed bin Jubair Mosque in Jedda in Saudi Arabia said: "The truth is that Columbus knew about the 'new world' even before he set sail. He also knew that there were Muslims there," The Blaze reports.

Not only this, the preacher further said that the Columbus' motive of visiting America was waging a war against Islam.

"He received a personal commission to sail to America from a Crusader queen [Isabella] who hated Islam and the Muslims," Assiri said, as per the translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute. "That was before this hateful crusader turned to the American continent, in order to fight the Muslims there. The Muslims were there before Columbus and all the others."

The Imam had said during one of his sermons, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this month, that Christians and Jews only understood violence. "This is the only language they understand. [After the attacks in France] they changed their policy."

He said that anyone who curses or mocks the Prophet Muhammad, even in a humorous tone, "must be killed, even if he repents."

With this he has become the second public figure to make such a claim about the discovery of America. 

During a speech on 15 November, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had made the same claim. The Turkish President had stated that Muslims had discovered the Americas almost 300 years before Christopher Columbus. He had further said that a mosque should be built in Cuba to immortalise the event.

"Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast," Erdogan said, International Business Times reported. He said Turkey should construct a mosque on the hill referenced by Columbus. "I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today," he said.