Spain’s drought a glimpse of our future?

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The Independent (London), May 24, 2008 Saturday

Barcelona is a dry city. It is dry in a way that two days of showers can do nothing to alleviate. The Catalan capital’s weather can change from one day to the next, but its climate, like that of the whole Mediterranean region, is inexorably warming up and drying out. And in the process this most modern of cities is living through a crisis that offers a disturbing glimpse of metropolitan futures everywhere.

Its fountains and beach showers are dry, its ornamental lakes and private swimming pools drained and hosepipes banned. Children are now being taught how to save water as part of their school day. This iconic, avant-garde city is in the grip of the worst drought since records began and is bringing the climate crisis that has blighted cities in Australia and throughout the Third World to Europe. A resource that most Europeans have grown up taking for granted now dominates conversation. Nearly half of Catalans say water is the region’s main problem, more worrying than terrorism, economic slowdown or even the populists’ favourite – immigration.

The political battles now breaking out here could be a foretaste of the water wars that scientists and policymakers have warned us will be commonplace in the coming decades. The emergency water-saving measures Barcelona adopted after winter rains failed for a second year running have not been enough. The city has had to set up a “water bridge” and is shipping in water for the first time in the history of this great maritime city.

A tanker from Marseilles with 36 million litres of drinking water unloaded its first cargo this week, one of a mini-fleet contracted to bring water from the Rhone every few days for at least the next three months. So humbled was Barcelona when prolonged drought forced it to ship in domestic water from Tarragona, 50 miles south along the Catalan coast, 12 days ago, that city hall almost delayed shipment and considered an upbeat publicity campaign to lift morale and international prestige.

The whole country is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years and the shipments from Tarragona prompted an outcry from regions who insist they need it more. For now the clashes are being soothed by intervention from Madrid, and plans to ship water from desalination plants in parched Almeria in Andalusia are shelved until October. But there is little indication of a strategy to deal not just with an immediate emergency but an ongoing crisis. Buying water on an epic scale from France has given the controversy an international aspect as French environmentalists question whether such a scarce natural resource should be sold as a commodity to another country.

“It would be a mistake to consider this water bridge between Marseilles and Catalonia as simply an operation of solidarity,” said a group of ecologists calling themselves Robin des Bois (Robin Hood). They said the commercial deal struck between private contractors failed to consider the environmental impact on France. The organisation blamed Barcelona’s water shortage on “wasted resources and … lack of foresight by Catalan and Spanish authorities”.

What Barcelona authorities are fast discovering is that chronic water shortages are not a problem that money alone can solve.

Its 5.5 million inhabitants need a lot of the stuff: the 20 million litres/20,000 tonnes/five million gallons of water brought from Tarragona on 13 May were enough for barely 180,000 people and were consumed within minutes of being channelled through the city’s taps. Wednesday’s shipment from Marseilles was bigger, 36 million litres, but similarly short lived.

Barcelona has churned up a whirlpool of controversy over its handling of the water crisis, causing just the spray of negative publicity it hoped to avoid.

Even the arrival of rain has only made things worse. Catalonia’s regional environment minister, Francesc Baltasar, rushed to announce last week that the hosepipe ban and swimming pool restrictions imposed in February would be lifted. Tarragona – whose wells supply shipped-in water – protested furiously. “Barcelona fills its swimming pools with water from Tarragona,” local headlines screamed, and the water authority demanded a halt to pumping Tarragona’s water for the Catalan capital.

Jose Montilla, Catalonia’s regional prime minister, countermanded Mr Baltasar and insisted water-saving measures remain. “Obviously it makes little sense to lift certain measures when, if it stops raining, we’ll have to re-impose them in three weeks’ time,” he said. But Tarragona re-opened the tap only after Mr Montilla visited, and insisted that “this effort of solidarity will supply only our basic needs”.

Barcelona’s daily El Periodico called Mr Baltasar’s proposal to end unpopular water-saving measures “irresponsible and demagogic”, increasing resentments in regions supplying water to Barcelona. The shipments themselves came under fire. Importing water gives the city a “lamentable, depressing image” and spreads “alarmism”, Miguel Angel Fraile, secretary of the Catalan Trade Confederation, said.

With reservoirs now filled to 30 per cent, authorities should scrap the plan and ship in water only as a last resort, he said. But reservoirs remain two-thirds empty, half the national average and far lower than usual for May. These are dangerously low in anticipation of another dry summer, raising the ghastly prospect of water rationing – painful for residents and offputting for summer visitors.

Extreme short-term measures might have been averted had Barcelona mended leaky old pipes and filtered polluted aquifers, critics grumble. But Barcelona is among Europe’s most careful water users, better than Madrid, Milan or Paris, La Vanguardia newspaper argues. Residents adapt their loos to flush less, shower rather than bath and brush their teeth without the tap running, but such individual measures are swamped by industrial usage, and waste in the infrastructure. La Vanguardia urges an immediate public works programme to improve the creaking system.

“People are much more aware of the need to save water,” says Bridget King, a South African who settled in Barcelona 20 years ago to teach English. “We put a bucket under the shower to catch water before it heats up, and have stopped buying petunias that need a lot of watering. It’s a constant topic of conversation and we worry it’s a long-term thing. But as a South African I’m appalled to see people wash dishes under the running tap. I was brought up to be very careful with water. And although we feel relieved it’s started raining, everyone knows it’s only short term and probably not enough.”

Recent rains have sharpened conflicts, offering a foretaste of water wars to come. Aragon straddles the mighty Ebro river but is a parched desert, cultivable only by sophisticated irrigation systems managed by an Association of Irrigators. This ancient brotherhood agreed to sell the surplus from its irrigation quota, which usually flows back into the Ebro, to Barcelona as a short-term emergency measure. If rains lift reservoirs from their emergency levels, Aragon warns it will halt supplies. But Mr Montilla tweaked Catalona’s definition of “emergency” so it didn’t rely solely on reservoir levels. Then Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, ordered Aragon to keep the water flowing “because conditions aren’t sufficient to guarantee Barcelona’s water supplies”.

Water is now Catalans’ principle worry: 43 per cent considered shortage the country’s main problem. Authorities promise the crisis will ease when a huge desalination plant comes on stream next year. But they say little about how to tackle the long-term problem of water shortage afflicting the whole Mediterranean region. Catalan winemakers recognise that the change is permanent; some are planting new vineyards further north as traditional terrain becomes hotter and dryer.

Other entrepreneurs, including swimming pool manufacturers, have less room for manoeuvre. “The authorities are criminalising us,” complained Josep Sadurni, of Catalonia’s association of swimming pool manufacturers, which predicts losses of up to Euro 200m (£160m) this year. “Who’ll buy a pool if they can’t fill it?” Mr Sadurni asked.

A striking image of the seriousness of the drought is provided by the emergence of a church from the waters of a drying reservoir. For 40 years, all you could see of the drowned village of Sant Roma was the belltower of its stone church, which peeped from time to time above the surface of the artificial lake in a valley flooded in the 1960s to supply Catalonia with water. This year falling water levels have revealed the 11th-century church in its entirety for the first time, attracting curious onlookers who walk round it on the reservoir’s dusty bed. Spain’s Socialist government recognises that climate change will intensify water shortages, and favours desalination plants. One such plant, among the biggest in Europe – and 75 per cent EU funded – is being built on the outskirts of Barcelona and will supply 20 per cent of the city’s water. But it will not be ready until next year.

“It was already very important when it was planned, but now with the urgent drought, it has become indispensable,” said Tomas Azurra, the chief engineer at the plant.

Ecologists warn that desalination plants are costly in energy use, and damage the environment with high CO2 emissions. But developed European regions can afford them, and they’re preferable to diverting water from rivers, which critics say is even more damaging.

More than 70 per cent of Spain’s water goes on agriculture, much of it wasted on antiquated irrigation systems and the cultivation of thirsty crops unsuitable for arid lands. But few politicians seek confrontation with farmers already struggling to scratch a living.

High-density tourist resorts sprinkled with swimming pools, patio showers and golf courses along Spain’s desertified southern coast, especially in Murcia where it rarely rains, are also unsustainable, ecologists say.

Spain needs to capture more rainwater, says Stephanie Blencker of the Stockholm International Water Institute, as climate change will produce alternating extremes of drought and heavy rain. “Rain is the biggest resource we have, and we can make it available all year round if we have sensible storage opportunities,” she said.

Since the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has enjoyed the reputation of being both cutting edge and user friendly. But now, as climate change overwhelms a crumbling infrastructure, proud, autonomous Catalonia has to seek help from outside.

PRECOLUMBIAN MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS

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PRECOLUMBIAN MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS
By: Dr. Youssef Mroueh

Preparatory Commitee for International Festivals to celebrate the millennium of the Muslims arrival to the Americas ( 996-1996 CE )

INTRODUCTION

Numerous evidence suggests that Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived to the Americas at least five centuries before Columbus. It is recorded,for example, that in the mid-tenth century, during the rule of the Ummayyed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961 CE), Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of DELBA (Palos) into the “Ocean of darkness and fog”. They returned after a long absence with much booty from a “strange and curious land”. It is evident that people of Muslim origin are known to have accompanied Columbus and subsequent Spanish explorers to the New World.

The last Muslim stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell to the Christians in 1492 CE, just before the Spanish inquisition was launched. To escape persecution, many non-Christians fled or embraced Catholicism. At least two documents imply the presence of Muslims in Spanish America before 1550 CE. Despite the fact that a decree issued in 1539 CE by Charles V, king of Spain, forbade the grandsons of Muslims who had been burned at the stake to migrate to the West Indies. This decree was ratified in 1543 CE, and an order for the expulsion of all Muslims from overseas Spanish territories was subsequently published. Many references on the Muslim arrival to Americas are available. They are summarized in the following

A: HISTORIC DOCUMENTS:

1. A Muslim historian and geographer ABUL-HASSAN ALI IBN AL-HUSSAIN
AL-MASUDI (871-957 CE) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that during the rule of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad(888-912 CE), a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory (ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In Al-Masudi’s map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory (Americas). (1)

2. A Muslim historian ABU BAKR IBN UMAR AL-GUTIYYA narrated that during the reign of the Muslim caliph of Spain, Hisham II (976-1009CE), another Muslim navigator, Ibn Farrukh, from Granada, sailed from Kadesh (February 999CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary islands) visiting King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana. He arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE. (2)

3. Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba), Spain. He was bound for GOMERA (Canary Islands)-Gomera is an Arabic word meaning ‘small firebrand’ – there he fell in love with Beatriz BOBADILLA, daughter of the first captain general of the island (the family name BOBADILLA is derived from the Arab Islamic name ABOU ABDILLA.).Nevertheless, the BOBADILLA clan was not easy to ignore. Another Bobadilla (Francisco) later, as the royal commissioner, put Columbus in chains and transferred him from Santo Dominigo back to
Spain (November 1500 CE). The BOBADILLA family was related to the ABBADID dynasty of Seville (1031-1091 CE). On October 12, 1492 CE, Columbus landed on a little island in the Bahamas that was called GUANAHANI by the natives. Renamed SAN SALVADOR by Columbus. GUANAHANI is derived from Mandinka and modified Arabic words. GUANA (IKHWANA) means ‘brothers’ and HANI is an Arabic name.Therefore the original name of the island was ‘HANI BROTHERS’. (11) Ferdinand Columbus, the son of Christopher, wrote about the blacks seen by his father in Handuras: “The people who live farther east of Pointe Cavinas, as far as Cape Gracios a Dios, are almost black in color.” At the same time, in this very same region, lived a tribe of Muslim natives known as ALMAMY. In Mandinka and Arabic languages, ALMAMY was the designation of “AL-IMAM”or “AL-IMAMU”, the leader of the prayer,or in some cases, the chief of the community,and/or a member of the Imami Muslim community. (12)

NOTES

4. A renowned American historian and linguist, LEO WEINER of Harvard University, in his book, AFRICA AND THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA (1920) wrote that Columbus was well aware of the Mandinka presence in the New World and that the West African Muslims had spread throughout the Caribbean, Central, South and North American territories, including Canada,where they were trading and intermarrying with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians. (13)

B: GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS:

1. The famous Muslim geographer and cartographer AL-SHARIF AL-IDRISI (1099- 1166CE) wrote in his famous book Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (Excursion of the longing one in crossing horizons) that a group of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and fog (The Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal), in order to discover what was in it and what extent were its limits. They finally reached an island that had people and cultivation…on the fourth day, a translator spoke to them in the Arabic language. (3)

2. The Muslim reference books mentioned a well-documented description of a journey across the sea of fog and darkness by Shaikh ZAYN EDDINE ALI BEN FADHEL AL-MAZANDARANI. His journey started from Tarfaya (South Morocco) during the reign of the King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286-1307CE) 6th of the Marinid dynasty, to Green Island in the Caribbean sea in 1291 CE (690 HE). The details of his ocean journey are mentioned in Islamic references, and many Muslim scholars are aware of this recorded historical event..(4)

3. The Muslim historian CHIHAB AD-DINE ABU-L-ABBAS AHMAD BEN FADHL AL-UMARI (1300-1384CE/700-786HE) described in detail the geographical explorations beyond the sea of fog and darkness of Mali’s sultans in his famous book Massaalik al-absaar fi mamaalik al-amsaar (The pathways of sights in the provinces of kingdoms). (5)

4. Sultan MANSU KANKAN MUSA (1312-1337 CE) was the world renowned Mandinka monarch of the West African Islamic empire of Mali. While travelling to Makkah on his famous Hajj in 1324 CE, he informed the scholars of the Mamluk Bahri sultan court (An-Nasir Nasir Edin Muhammad III-1309-1340 CE) in Cairo, that his brother, sultan Abu Bakari I (1285-1312CE) had undertaken two expeditions into the Atlantic Ocean. When the sultan did not return to Timbuktu from the second voyage of 1311 CE, Mansa Musa became sultan of the empire. (6)

5. Columbus and early Spanish and portuguese explorers were able to voyage across the Atlantic (a distance of 2400 Km’s) thanks to Muslim geographical and navigational information. In particular maps made by Muslim traders, including AL-MASUDI (871-957CE) in his book Akhbar az-zaman (History of the world) which is based on material gathered in Africa and Asia (9). As a matter of fact, Columbus had two captain of muslim origin during his first transatlantic voyage: Martin Alonso Pinzon was the captain of the PINTA,and his brother Vicente Yanez Pinzon was the captain of the NINA. They were wealthy, expert ship outfitters who helped organize the Columbus expedition and prepared the flagship, SANTA MARIA. They did this at their own expense for both commercial and political reasons. The PINZON family was related to ABUZAYAN MUHAMMAD III (1362-66 CE), the Moroccan sultan of the Marinid dynasty (1196-1465CE). (10)

C: ARABIC ( ISLAMIC ) INSCRIPTIONS:

1. Anthropologists have proven that the Mandinkos under Mansa Musa’s instructions explored many parts of North America via the Mississippi and other rivers systems. At Four Corners, Arizona, writings show that they even brought elephants from Africa to the
area.(7)

2. Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain. The ruins of mosques and minarets with inscriptions of Quranic verses have been discovered in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada. (8.0)

3. During his second voyage, Columbus was told by the indians of ESPANOLA (Haiti), that black people had been to the island before his arrival. For proof, they presented Columbus with the spears of these African muslims. These weapons were tipped with a yellow metal that the indians called GUANIN, a word of West African derivation meaning ‘gold alloy’. Oddly enough, it is related to the Arabic word ‘GHINAA’ which means ‘WEALTH’. Columbus brought some GUANINES back to Spain and had them tested. He learned that the metal was 18 parts gold (56.25%), 6 parts silver (18.75%) and 8 parts copper (25%), the same ratio as the metal produced in African metalshops of Guinea. (14)

4. In 1498 CE, on his third voyage to the new world, Columbus landed in Trinidad. Later, he sighted the South American continent, where some of his crew went ashore and found natives using colorful handkerchiefs of symmetrically woven cotton. Columbus noticed that these handkerchiefs resembled the headdresses and loinclothes of Guinea in their colors, style and function. He refered to them as ALMAYZARS. ALMAYZAR is an Arabic word for ‘wrapper’,’cover’,’apron’ and/or ‘skirting’ which was the cloth the Moors (Spanish or North African Muslims) imported from west Africa (Guinea) into Morocco, Spain and Portugal. During this voyage, Columbus was surprised that the married women wore cotton panties (bragas) and he wondered where these natives learned their modesty. Hernan Cortes, Spanish conqueror, described the dress of the Indian women as ‘long veils’ and the dress of Indian men as ‘breechcloth painted in the style of Moorish draperies’. Ferdinand Columbus called the native cotton garments ‘breechclothes of the same design and cloth as the shawls worn by the Moorish women of Granada’. Even the similarity of the children’s hammocks to those found in North Africa was uncanny.(15)

5. Dr. Barry Fell (Harvard University) introduced in his book ‘Saga America-1980’ solid scientific evidence supporting the arrival, centuries before Columbus, of Muslims from North and West Africa. Dr. Fell discovered the existence of the Muslim schools at Valley of Fire, Allan Springs, Logomarsino, Keyhole, Canyon, Washoe and Hickison Summit Pass (Nevada), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Mimbres Valley (New Mexico) and Tipper Canoe(Indiana) dating back to 700-800 CE. Engraved on rocks in the arid western U.S, he found texts, diagrams and charts representing the last surviving fragments of what was once a system of schools – at both an elementary and higher level. The language of instruction was North African Arabic written with old Kufic Arabic scripts. The subjects of instruction included writing, reading, arithmetic, religion, history, geography, mathematics, astronomy and sea navigation. The descendants of the Muslim visitors of North America are members of the present Iroquois, Algonquin, Anasazi, Hohokam and Olmec native people..(16)

6. There are 565 names of places (villages, towns, cities, mountains, lakes, rivers,.. etc. ) in U.S.A. (484) and Canada (81) which derived from Islamic and Arabic roots. These places were originally named by the natives in precolumbian periods. Some of these names carried holy meanings such as: Mecca-720 inhabitants (Indiana), Makkah Indian tribe (Washington), Medina-2100 (Idaho), Medina-8500 (N.Y.), Medina-1100, Hazen-5000 (North Dakota), Medina-17000/Medina-120000 (Ohio), Medina-1100 (Tennessee), Medina-26000 (Texas), Medina-1200 (Ontario), Mahomet-3200 (Illinois), Mona-1000 (Utah), Arva-700 (Ontario)…etc. A careful study of the names of the native Indian tribes revealed that many names are derived from Arab and Islamic roots and origins, i.e. Anasazi, Apache, Arawak, Arikana, Chavin, Cherokee, Cree, Hohokam, Hupa, Hopi, Makkah, Mahigan, Mohawk, Nazca, Zulu, Zuni…etc..

Based on the above historical, geographical and linguistic notes, a call to celebrate the millennium of the Muslim arrival to the Americas, five centuries before Columbus, has been issued to all Muslim nations and communities around the world. We hope that this call will receive complete understanding and attract enough support.

FOOTNOTES:

(1)See ref 4 (2)See ref. 9 (3)See ref. 3 (4)See ref. 1, 2 and 5
(5)See ref. 6 (6)See ref. 14 (7)See ref. 21 and 22 (8)See ref. 15
(9)See ref. 4 (10)See ref. 15 (11)See ref. 15 (12)See ref. 6
(13)See ref. 20 (14)See ref. 16 (15)See ref. 7 (16)See ref. 10 &12

REFERENCES:

1. AGHA HAKIM, AL-MIRZA Riyaadh Al-Ulama(Arabic),Vol.2 P.386/Vol.4 P.175
2. AL-AMEEN, SAYED MOHSIN Aayan Ash-Shia(Arabic),Vol.7 P.158/Vol 8 P.302-3
3. AL-IDRISSI Nuzhat Al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq Al-Afaaq(Arabic)
4. AL-MASUDI Muruj Adh-Dhahab (Arabic), Vol. 1, P. 138
5. AL-ASFAHANI, AR-RAGHIB Adharea Ila Makarim Ash-Shia,Vol.16,P.343
6. CAUVET, GILES Les Berbers de L’Amerique,Paris 1912,P.100-101
7. COLUMBUS, FERDINAND The Life of Admiral Christopher Columbus,Rutgers Univ.Press, 1959, P.232
8. DAVIES, NIGEL Voyagers to the New World,New York 1979
9. ON MANUEL OSUNAY SAVINON Resumen de la Geografia Fisica…,Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1844
10. FELL,BARRY Saga America, New York 1980
11. FELL,BARRY America BC, New York 1976
12. GORDON,CYRUS Before Columbus,New York 1971
13. GYR,DONALD Exploring Rock Art,Santa Barbara 1989
14. HUYGHE,PATRICK Columbus was Last,New York 1992
15. OBREGON ,MAURICIO The Columbus Papers,The Barcelona Letter of 1493,
The Landfall Controversy, and the Indian Guides, McMillan Co.,New York 1991 16. THACHER,JOHN BOYD Christopher Columbus,New York 1950,P.380
17. VAN SETIMA,IVAN African Presence in Early America,New Brunswick,NJ 1987
18. VAN SETIMA,IVAN They Came Before Columbus,New York 1976
19. VON WUTHENAU,ALEX Unexpected Facts in Ancient America,New York 1975
20. WEINER,LEO Africa and the Discovery of America,Philadelphia, 1920,Vol.2 P.365-6
21. WILKINS,H..T. Mysteries of Ancient South America,New York 1974
22. WINTERS,CLYDE AHMAD Islam in Early North and South America,Al-Ittihad,July 1977,P.60

Did Muslims Visit America Before Columbus?

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Did Muslims Visit America Before Columbus?
By Rebecca Fachner, 5-08-06

Is it possible that there were Muslims in the Americas before Columbus? Some claim that Muslims came to America hundreds of years before Columbus arrived in the New World. Are the claims true?

Every elementary school student knows the story of Christopher Columbus; that he set sail from Spain and mistakenly discovered America in 1492, landing on an island in the Caribbean. Columbus encountered native inhabitants of this new world, and thinking that he had landed in India, he called them Indians. While many of the details have been mythologized or fabricated over the ensuing 500 years, Columbus’s expedition represents the first major discovery of the Americas and the first appearance of non-Native Americans. The conventional wisdom is that Columbus ended tens of thousands of years of near-total isolation for the Native Americans. Since the Americas had been initially populated (probably between 13,000 BC and 11,000 BC) there had been no engagement with populations on any other continent, save small ventures by the Norse into Northeastern Canada.

Now some are suggesting that Muslims came to the Americas, possibly as early as the 700s. These researchers argue that Muslims came from Islamic Spain, particularly the port of Delba (Pelos) during the rule of Caliph Abdullah Ibn Mohammed (888-912). A book by a Muslim historian details the story of a Muslim navigator on a journey across the ocean to an unknown land, where they found much treasure. The historian, Abul-Hassan Al-Masudi, added a map of the world to his book, one that contained “a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog (the Atlantic Ocean) which he referred to as the unknown territory (the Americas).

Columbus landed on a small Bahamian island on Oct. 12, 1492. Although Columbus renamed it, the island was called Guanahani by the native Mandinka islanders. Guanahani is believed to be a corruption of two Arabic words, brought to the island by early Muslim visitors who remained in the Caribbean and intermarried with the Native Americans. Guana means brothers and Hani is a traditional Arab name, giving rise to the idea that the island name meant “Hani Brothers.” Nearby in Honduras lived a tribe of natives known as Almamy, a corruption of the Arabic word Al-Imam, person who leads in prayer. Leo Wiener, founder of Harvard’s Department of Slavic Languages, argued in an early 20th century book that these examples were the result of West African Muslims spreading throughout the New World and intermarrying with the various Indian tribes. There are other, equally fragmented, claims about an early Muslim presence in the Americas, all contained in an article published widely on the Internet by Dr. Youssef Mroueh. Dr. Mroueh; a Muslim author, historian of science and radiation control physicist, wrote this article to commemorate a thousand years of Muslim presence in the Americas in 1996.

Mroueh cited an Australian archeologist, Dr. Barry Fell, a marine biologist who claimed to find extensive archeological evidence of a significant Muslim presence in the New World in his book, Saga America. Fell drew parallels between West African peoples and Native Americans in the southwest, including cultural and linguistic similarities, and the existence of Islamic petroglyphs in the southwestern region. In particular, Fell mentioned a carving that he believed was done centuries before Columbus that states in Arabic: “Yasus bin Maria” (Jesus son of Mary), a phrase commonly found in the Koran.

Fell’s claims though have been ridiculed by professional archaeologists. They were enraged by his claims, deriding not only his findings, but his inflexible and rigid presentation of them, without the usual caution that characterizes academic pronouncements. Fell’s methods came into question, as detractors noted: “His claims for scientific rigour might hold for marine biology, but when it comes to archaeological interpretation, he ignored the usual rules of evidence.” (Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Cult and Fringe)

Other claims have been similarly criticized. In 2002 the Middle East Policy Council published the Arab World Studies Notebook, a teachers guide to understanding and teaching students about Arab culture. The text claims that Arab explorers came to America in advance of Columbus, marrying Algonquin Indians whose descendants eventually became tribal chiefs with names like Adbul-Rahim and Abdallah Ibn Malik. The Notebook and its editor, Audrey Shabbas, came under intense fire for failing to provide corroborating evidence. According to the Washington Times, Shabbas and the Council were slow to respond to concerns from various sources. Peter DiGangi, director of Canada’s Algonquin Nation Secretariat calls her claims “outlandish” and says that “nothing in the tribe’s written or oral history support them.”

Another critique came from William Bennetta, professional editor and President of the Textbook League. Bennetta referred to the text’s “flights of pseudohistorical fakery.” Among other issues, he called the Notebook to task for offering no support for its claim that the Americas were seemingly full of Muslims and Muslim descendants when Columbus arrived. He noted that the Notebook does not even name the English explorers who supposedly found the Algonquin chiefs. Bennetta wrote to Shabbas to inquire about some of the unsubstantiated claims in the Notebook, and while he received a reply, “she didn’t send me [Bennetta] any citation. She made some evasive claims about some published ‘works’.”

In an article featured at David Horowitz’s frontpagemag.com in 2004, David Yeagley, adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma, called the Notebook “intellectual genocide on American Indians,” noting that the authors “simply created an Indian story to suit the purposes of the advocacy group, and published it in a school text manual as fact.” Yeagley believed that Shabbas and the other authors were simply trying to gain acceptance for Arabs, further integrating them into American culture by making them ‘native.’ Shabbas also came under fire from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which published a report called “The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers.” The report was critical of many sources that are used by history teachers, noting that sometimes there is no way to ascertain the accuracy of materials provided for teachers. In particular, the report referred to the Notebook as “propaganda.”

As an end result to the continued criticism, Shabbas promised to give “careful and thoughtful attention” to the issues raised by her detractors, after many issues of the Notebook had already been sent out to teachers.

Sources

Archibald, George. “Textbook on Arabs removes blunder.” ­ The Washington Times. 4 Apr 2004: A2.

Bennetta, William J., “Arab World Studies Notebook lobs Muslim propaganda at teachers.” The Textbook League. (2003): n. pag. Online. Internet. 30 Mar. 2006. Available http://www.textbookleague.org/spwich.htm.

Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith. “Barry Fell.” Cult and Fringe Archeology. (2006) n. pag. Online. Internet. 28 Mar 2006. Available http://kjmatthews.com.

Mroueh, Dr. Youssef. “Muslims in the Americas before Columbus.” As-Sunnah Foundation of America. (1996). n. pag. Online. Internet. 28 March 2006. Available http://www.sunnah.org/history/precolmb.htm.

Yeagley, David A., “So Muslims Came to America Before Columbus?” History News Network (2004): n. pag. Online. Internet. 30 Mar. 2006. Available http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/4899.html.