Please join us this Friday, October 10th at 3:00 pm in the Hatfield Room for the third Faculty Colloquium of this year.
Speaker: Richard Francaviglia, Visiting Faculty, Department of Religious Studies
Title: Did Muslims Arrive in the Americas Before Columbus? Re-examining a Controversial Premise.
Abstract: The claim that Muslims reached, explored, and even settled the New World before Columbus has been debated for nearly a century. After summarizing the claims made by proponents of this view, as found in their books, magazine articles, and Websites, one regional case study will be highlighted. According to proponents, early Southwestern Native American pueblo architecture, petroglyphs, and place names of the “Anasazi” peoples offer clear evidence of Islam’s early presence. This claim not only challenges Native Americans’ beliefs, but is also in disagreement with the consensus of archaeologists and historians of discovery.
Given the complexity of this issue, this presentation recommends viewing the proponents’ claims differently — not [only] in light of science and objectivity, but also as subjective modern narratives about accomplishments in the “Golden Age” of Islam (ca. 750 to 1258 CE). Interestingly, claims about a Pre-Columbian Muslim presence are similar in design to claims by Afro centrists, and both have a similar sociopolitical dimension in that they serve to unify their advocates. Ultimately, though, religion rather than race is a major component of the pre-Columbian Muslim claims. Since 9/11 2001, when Islam began to redouble its efforts to validate its presence in the Americas, the narratives have become decidedly political. Ultimately, the claims of proponents are revisionist and challenge the established way of understanding and celebrating [American] history. If what proponents claim is true, the ramifications would be enormous: it would not only mean that Muslims essentially trumped the European Age of Discovery, but also that Islam in effect predates Christianity and Judaism in the New World. Small wonder, then, that this subject is so controversial and so passionately debated.