Bibi looks set to remain Israel’s Prime Minister for a fourth term, so this is a good opportunity to remind you that there is no shortage of crazy Middle Eastern heads of state — but also that Recep Tayyip Erdogan may not be one of them. Erdogan caught some flak towards the end of last year when he asserted that “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,” Erdogan said, adding that he’d like to see a mosque built on the hilltop today.
And as preposterous as that may sound, a recent archaeological discovery suggests Erdogan might not have been as wrong as we all thought. Researchers announced last week that a ring found in a ninth century Viking tomb appears to contain a piece of engraved glass that reads say “for Allah” or “to Allah” (the same letter can mean either “to” or “for” in Arabic). They asserted that the find provides archaeological substantiation of previously-known written records indicating contact between Scandinavians and Islamic civilization. (After all, the ring was recovered in the Swedish Viking trading center of Birka. Birka!)
You can hopefully already see where this is going. The ring was buried with its owner in the ninth century, shortly after the emergence of Islam in the Middle East. Vikings are widely believed to have visited the New World in the early eleventh century. That means it’s certainly not out of the question that — just like some members of Columbus’ voyage, if not Columbus himself, were Jewish — some of those Norsemen who sailed with Leif Erikson were not only pioneering explorers, but also ranked among the world’s very first ginger jihadis.