By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has completely destroyed his credibility by making numerous bizarre claims in recent years.
For example, Erdogan told a group of Latin American Muslims visiting Istanbul last year that Muslim Pilgrims discovered America over 300 years before Christopher Columbus:
“It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492. In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus in 1178. …In his memoirs, Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque atop a hill on the coast of Cuba. A mosque would look perfect on that hill today.”
When people around the world scoffed at the President’s unfounded assertion, Turkish reporter Oray Egin found out that Erdogan had completely misconstrued what Columbus had written in his memoirs comparing a mountaintop in Cuba to “a pretty mosque.” Turkey’s leader wrongly concluded that Columbus had seen a mosque built by Muslim sailors!
In one of many spoofs poking fun at Erdogan, someone sarcastically alleged that Astronaut Neil Armstrong wrote in his autobiography: “When we landed on the moon, we saw the ruins of a magnificent building. Buzz Aldrin and I were amazed as we approached the ruins. This was a small, elaborately-built Ottoman mosque. When we came back to earth, NASA and the American government ordered us not to talk about it.”
Such outlandish pronouncements attributed to the Turkish leader continue to pop up on the internet. Given Erdogan’s penchant for telling wacky stories, many people tend to believe anything they read about him.
Here is a recent example: “Ottomans were the first to reach the moon, says Turkish President,” wrote Barbara Johnson in the World News Daily Report. She quoted Erdogan saying: “It is alleged that the first man to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong in 1969. In fact, Muslim space explorers reached our satellite 334 years before that, in 1635. Everyone knows the story of the famous aviator, Lagari Hasan Celebi, the ‘Ottoman Rocket Man,’ who made the first successful manned rocket flight in 1633. What you might not know, is that he attempted to reach the moon two years later and could very well have succeeded.”
According to Turkish mythology, legendary Ottoman aviator Lagari Hasan Celebi launched in 1633 a 7-winged rocket using 140 lbs. of gunpowder. Before his flight, he reportedly proclaimed: “O my Sultan! Be blessed, I am going to talk to Jesus!” After his rocket landed in the sea, Celebi allegedly swam ashore and announced: “O my Sultan! Jesus sends his regards to you!"
Reporter Johnson continued her whimsical story: “Pres. Erdogan’s surprising claim generated some whispers and laughter from the audience, a reaction that clearly angered the Turkish politician. He slammed the skeptics for mocking his claims, adding that he would soon have the proofs to back his claims. ‘Why do you not believe it? Because you’ve never believed that a Muslim can do such a thing…. NASA may have destroyed most of the physical evidence of the Ottoman’s success during the Apollo 11 mission, but we’ll try to find any evidence that might have escaped the cover up.”
Of course, what Johnson wrote was not true. Erdogan never uttered those words. However, it is interesting that many Turks believed the fake story, and posted the following comments in reaction to Johnson’s article:
-- Ali Emre Demir: “Unfortunately, he is our President.”
-- Berkay: “The scary thing is, if you are living in that nation and witness all the things that man does, and see how many supporters he has. This is an embarrassment.”
-- Deniz: “Poor, secular Turkish people! This Tayyip is the embarrassment of Turkey.”
-- Huseyin: “You cannot imagine what we have been suffering. He is a solid tyrant…. He is a complete dishonor to us.”
Indeed, Erdogan is a big embarrassment to millions of Turks who are ashamed of him as their President. Unfortunately, the Turkish President’s actions are more ruthless than his words: He jails reporters, orders the shooting of civil rights activists, sues those who disagree with him, stashes away millions of dollars obtained by corrupt means, dismisses judges and law enforcement officials who refuse to carry out his illegal orders, and supports the infiltration of ISIS terrorists into Syria and Iraq.
The international community should worry more about Erdogan’s terrifying actions than his delirious ramblings!