by Juan Cole
In the 1960s, America competed with the Soviet Union for influence in the Arab world. Is it back to the future for diplomacy in the Middle East?
"They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: they do not purify themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity after coitus and do not even wash their hands after food."The Arab writer Ahmad ibn Fadlan noted the above after meeting Viking travellers around a thousand years ago.The Icelandic historian Thorir Jonsson Hraundal has studied comments about what we call Vikings in original texts by Arab historians and geographers. The texts described Arab encounters with Scandinavians in areas around the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Their depictions differ radically from images of fearsome Viking conquerors handed down from the British Isles and France in the same era....
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