Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is claiming that Muslim sailors reached the Americas more than 300 years before explorer Christopher Columbus.

Speaking this weekend at a gathering of Muslim leaders from Latin America, Erdogan said that contact between Islam and Latin America dates to the 12th century.

"It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492," Erdogan said. "In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178."

Erdogan

Erdogan spoke this weekend at a gathering of Muslim leaders from Latin America. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

"In his memoirs, Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque atop a hill on the coast of Cuba," Erdogan said, adding that he'd like to see a mosque built on the hilltop today.

Scholars have disputed the claim in Columbus's writings, saying there is no archaeological evidence of Muslims having lived in the Americas before Columbus, an Italian, made his expedition in 1492 on behalf of the Spanish crown.

Who discovered the Americas has long been a controversial issue with various scholars and historians claiming that others arrived before Columbus.