News & Politics

Were the Vikings Really Muslims?

Were the Vikings Really Muslims?
Photo by: Dave Starbuck/Geisler-Fotopress/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Just as every news story must now be put into the current political context — what’s the Trump angle? — so must every other story somehow be framed by its relationship with Islam. Case in point, this story from the New York Times:

The discovery of Arabic characters that spell “Allah” and “Ali” on Viking funeral costumes in boat graves in Sweden has raised questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia.

Let’s stop right there and unpack that lede. “Arabic characters” — designs, really — “raise questions” (in whom?) about the “influence” of Islam in the Nordic countries. You can see where this is going already.

Dr. Larsson discovered the Arabic characters in February, as she was preparing some of the items for an exhibition on Viking couture in Enkoping, Sweden. She had been trying to recreate textile patterns for the exhibits — by comparing motifs on the burial dress with a silk band found around the head of a skeleton in a Viking grave at Birka, Sweden — when she discovered Kufic characters of Arabic.

At first, she said, she could not make sense of the tiny geometric designs in both fabrics. “Then I remembered seeing them in similar Moorish designs in silk ribbons from Spain,” she said. “I understood it had to be a kind of Arabic character, not Nordic.”

Yes, of course, it just “had to be” because what other explanation could possibly exist?

THE fast-food chain, Burger King, is withdrawing its ice-cream cones after the lid of the dessert offended a Muslim. The man claimed the design resembled the Arabic inscription for Allah, and branded it sacrilegious, threatening a “jihad”.  The chain is being forced to spend thousands of pounds redesigning the lid with backing from The Muslim Council of Britain. It apologised and said: “The design simply represents a spinning ice-cream cone.”

The offending lid was spotted in a branch in Park Royal last week by business development manager Rashad Akhtar, 27, of High Wycombe. He was not satisfied by the decision to withdraw the cones and has called on Muslims to boycott Burger King. He said: “This is my jihad. How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way to the right you are offending Muslims.”

Back to the Times, filling out what otherwise might have been an interesting story — we know the Vikings traveled widely, to North America, across Europe, down the Volga into the heart of Russia, and encountered all sorts of peoples along the way, raping and killing as many of them as they could:

Upon closer examination of the band from all angles, she said, she realized she was looking at Kufic script. The words Allah and Ali appeared in the silk found in Boat Grave 36 and in many other graves — and, most intriguing, the word Allah could be seen when reflected in a mirror. The same patterns have been found in mosaic grave monuments in Central Asia. “A giddying thought is that the bands, as well as the costumes, were produced west of what was the Muslim heartland,” she said.

What’s so giddying about that, one wonders.

Dr. Larsson said that the silk and other artifacts found in the Viking graves suggested not just trade or plundering — but a deeper cultural exchange and shared ideas. Did the Vikings know the words were in the fabric?

“My opinion is that those who wore the fabrics must have understood the symbolism,” said Dr. Larsson. “But certainly, the person who wove the fabrics could read and write and knew what the characters meant.” Dr. Larsson also said: “There are so many puzzle pieces here that together they represent an idea. I’m not saying that these are Muslims. But they are partaking in a worldview shared by people living in Central Asia.”

“The Quran says that silk is worn in paradise, which together with the inscriptions on the ribbons can explain the widespread presence of silk in Viking graves,” Dr. Larsson said. “Viking burial customs were very likely influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in paradise.”

Well, plenty of hookers and porn stars have Chinese characters or Japanese kanji tattooed on their abdomens without having the slightest clue as to their meaning, but hey. Meanwhile, the journalistically mandatory demurral comes — of course! — from whoever’s standing in for the National Socialist German Workers Party today:

Not everyone accepted Dr. Larsson’s interpretation. She said she had been interviewed by an extreme right-wing publication questioning the exhibition and her reading of the material. Viking symbols such as the Tyr rune are used by neo-Nazi groups to advance a myth of ethnic purity, something that many Viking re-enactment groups have said they do not want to be associated with.

And that’s it.

Christian Skoldborg, a spokesman for Fenris, a Viking re-enactment group that travels to markets all over Europe to sell crafts and show how Vikings lived, said the thought of a deeper cultural exchange between the Vikings and the Arab world was not such a shock.

“This notion that Vikings were a pure race — that picture is something we need to wash away,” he said. “There are so many artifacts that show Arabic writing in the bands. It is very likely that they came here and lived,” said Mr. Skoldborg, who works as a forger in a smith near Gothenburg.

Once Muslim, always Muslim; seen in this context, the current Islamic colonization of Gothenburg and other Swedish cities is not conquest, it’s reconquest. And that’s how publications such as the Times prepare the way for dhimmitude.

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