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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Frozen Scandinavia’

‘Allah,’ ‘Ali’ writing discovered in Sweden’s Viking graves

October 7, 2017

Viking-era burial costumes depicting the names “Allah” and “Ali” were discovered by Swedish researchers last week, raising questions about the relation between Muslim and the Scandinavian civilization.

Archaeology researchers from Uppsala University discovered the silk costumes with Kufic script during excavations in Viking graves located in Sweden’s Birka city.

Muslims use the word “Allah” for God, while Ali is the name of Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law.

The Vikings could have been influenced by Islam and “the idea of an eternal life in paradise after death,” Annika Larsson, a researcher in textile archaeology at Uppsala University, told Anadolu Agency Friday.

“In the Quran, it is written that the inhabitants of paradise will wear garments of silk, which along with the text band’s inscriptions may explain the widespread occurrence of silk in Viking Age graves,” the researcher said in an earlier statement.

Similar Kufic characters were also found in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia, the university said in a statement.

In 2015, Swedish researchers at Stockholm University also discovered a ninth century ring in a Viking grave with an inscription that says “for Allah” or “to Allah.”

Following the ring’s discovery, researchers concluded that there was interaction between the Vikings and the Muslim civilization and the former carried Muslim goods to their homes.

Source: Daily Sabah.

Link: https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2017/10/07/allah-ali-writing-discovered-in-swedens-viking-graves.

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50 detained as anti-Semitic group marches in Swedish city

September 30, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Police said at least 50 people were detained Saturday during a right-wing demonstration in Sweden’s second-largest city that left one police officer and several others injured.

The rally by the Nordic Resistance Movement in Goteborg, 400 kilometers (248 miles) southwest of Stockholm, featured an estimated 600 people marching in formation in all-black outfits. Some wore helmets and held shields, while others hoisted the movement’s green-and-white flags.

Police had posted flyers before the event warning people not to act in a way reminiscent of German Nazis demonstrations in the 1930s and 1940s. NMR, which promotes an openly anti-Semitic doctrine, originally sought to pass near a downtown synagogue during the march, which coincided with Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year. But Swedish courts intervened and shortened the route to less than one kilometer (0.6 mile.) The rally’s ending time also was shortened to avoid clashing with a nearby soccer game.

Counter-demonstrators threw fireworks and attempted several times to break police lines, allegedly to confront NMR members, who also tried to get past riot police. Several were detained on suspicion of rioting, police said.

“Stones, bottles and sticks were also thrown at us,” police spokesman Hans Lippens said. Police offered to shuttle NMR members away in buses after they were circled by riot police on a Goteborg square, preventing them from completing their march. Police said the move was meant to keep both sides apart.

The NMR later demanded that its leader who had been detained, Simon Lindberg, be released before they would leave the square. Counter-demonstrators threw rocks at police outside the Liseberg amusement park, which reportedly shut down its main entrance.

Some 20 people, mostly Danes and Germans, were stopped as they arrived in Sweden to take part in the demonstration. “As a democracy, we should do much more to oppose Nazism and extremism,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters Friday at an EU summit in Tallinn.

Goteborg was scarred by violent demonstrations in 2001 on the sidelines of a European Union summit.

Right holds onto power narrowly in Norway

September 12, 2017

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The center-right grouping that has governed Norway the past four years retained a narrow hold on power in national elections, according to near-complete results early Tuesday. With 95 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives, coalition partner the Progress Party and two support parties, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, looked likely to win a total of 89 seats in the 169-seat parliament, the Storting.

The election was a bitter disappointment for the leftist Labor Party. It remains the largest single party in parliament with 49 seats, but other likely coalition partners or support parties didn’t add enough to put the left in power.

There was no immediate announcement about forming a new government, but the four-party center-right alliance appeared almost certain to continue. “We delivered on what we promised,” Solberg said at party headquarters. “It seems that there will be a clear non-socialist majority in this election.”

Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store was chastened. “As it seems now, it just did not happen,” he said, according to the Norwegian news agency NTB. Although the center-right grouping had steered Norway through crises over a sharp influx of migrants and the decline in global prices for the oil and gas that are the backbone of the country’s prosperity and comfort, some analysts were surprised that Labor lost significant ground. Its 49 seats were a loss of six from what it held in the previous parliament.

“Labor had a sensationally bad election. It is quite unusual for an opposition party to go back this way,” NTB quoted political analyst Svein Erik Tuastad as saying. The election was a contest over national values, including how welcoming the wealthy country should be to migrants and asylum-seekers and how close it should be to the European Union.

Many Norwegians see the Britain as a model for severing ties to the 28-nation EU. Although not a member, Norway has access to the EU’s single market of a half billion people, accepts the free movement of EU workers, enacts reams of EU laws and pays a membership fee to do that.

The rural Center Party, which was the election’s single biggest winner with a gain of 10 seats, has called for a public inquiry into the country’s relationship with the EU. But both Labor and the Conservatives are committed to the current arrangement. They also have ruled out ending oil and gas exploration — a demand of the Greens who remained static with a single seat.

Associated Press writer Jim Heintz reported this story from Moscow and AP writer David Keyton reported in Stockholm.

Japan leader Abe vows Arctic, Russia cooperation in Finland

July 10, 2017

HELSINKI (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pledged to increase cooperation with Finland in Arctic issues and on furthering Russian relations, after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Abe noted that Finland is currently chairing the Arctic Council and said his country would increase its role in the agency by “positively contributing more than in the past to (its) activities.” “We will be enhancing our cooperation in the area of the environment regarding the Arctic regions,” Abe said in prepared statements by the two leaders.

Niinisto said that the two countries signed several agreements, including on developing environmental cooperation. Abe congratulated Finland on this year’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, with which it shares a 1,300 kilometer (800 mile) border, noting that Russia is “an important neighbor for both of our nations.”

“We reaffirmed our close collaboration in our relationship with Russia,” he said. Neither leader gave any details of the content of their talks. Before arriving in Finland, Abe met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Stockholm, where the two leaders demanded that North Korea halt missile tests, and pledged increased cooperation in the U.N. Security Council. They also agreed to combat terrorism together.

Norway to Brazil: Curb deforestation or we stop the money

June 23, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway’s prime minister warned Brazil’s president on Friday to curb deforestation in the Amazon or Norway will reduce its financial contribution to the project this year. The announcement comes as the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests are being cut down at the fastest rate in nearly a decade, according to official Brazilian figures.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Norway’s more than $1 billion contribution to the so-called Amazon fund is “based on results,” Norway’s NTB news agency said. Since 2001, Norway has donated billions to encourage the conservation of forests.

“If preliminary figures about deforestation in 2016 are confirmed, it will lead to a reduced payout in 2017,” Solberg said after meeting with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Oslo. Temer praised Norway’s contribution to the fund but declined to take questions from media after he and Solberg had made their statements.

“This contribution has enabled us to make a more effective impact to avoiding deforestation,” Temer said, according to NTB. Temer said Monday he had vetoed legislation to reduce the size of protected environmental reserves. However, the apparent victory for environmental groups most likely will be short-lived, as Brazilian Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho is working on similar legislation.

The legislation passed by Brazil’s Congress last month would have converted around 1.4 million acres (566,000 hectares) of protected land into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use. However, last week, Filho announced plans to create a new expedited bill that would convert 1.1 million acres of protected land to other uses.

Last year, deforestation in the Amazon jumped 29 percent over the previous year, according to the Brazilian government’s satellite monitoring. That was the highest rate since 2008. Before his meeting with Solberg, Temer was met by protesters holding posters reading “Stop rainforest destruction” and “Respect indigenous peoples’ rights” as he arrived at the prime minister’s office in Oslo.

Pope names cardinals for Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain, Salvador

May 21, 2017

VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a surprise announcement Sunday, Pope Francis named new cardinals for Spain, El Salvador and three countries where Catholics are a tiny minority: Mali, Laos and Sweden. “Their origin, from different parts of the world, manifests the universality of the Church spread out all over the Earth,” Francis said, speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace to thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

The five churchmen chosen are Monsignor Jean Zerbo, archbishop of Bamako, Mali, where he has been involved in peace efforts amid Islamist extremism; Monsignor Juan Jose Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain; Monsignor Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, who became a Catholic at the age of 20; Monsignor Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos; and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, an auxiliary bishop who works as a parish pastor in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Francis will formally elevate the five to cardinal’s rank in a ceremony at the Vatican on June 28. Then the new “princes of the church,” as the red-hatted, elite corps of churchmen who elect popes are known, will co-celebrate Mass with Francis the next day, the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul, an important Vatican holiday.

Since being elected pontiff in 2013, Francis has made a point of visiting his flock in places where Catholics are in the minority, as well as of working to improve relations between churches and among believers of different faiths.

His brief pilgrimage last year to Sweden, where Lutherans are the Christian majority, was hailed by some as instrumental in helping to improve relations between the two churches. While there, he joined Lutheran leaders in a common commemoration of the Protestant Reformation that divided Europe five centuries ago.

Arborelius, who is 67, converted to Catholicism when he was 20. In 1998, when he was consecrated as a bishop in Stockholm’s Catholic cathedral, Arborelius became Sweden’s first Catholic bishop, of Swedish origin, since the times of the Reformation,

In Mali, a country bloodied by Islamist extremism, Muslims constitute the predominant religious majority. Zerbo’s clerical resume reveals him to be a churchman working for reconciliation in society, a virtue repeatedly stressed by Francis. The Vatican noted that Zerbo, 73, who was named an auxiliary bishop of Bamako in 1998 and 10 years later was made that city’s archbishop, has played a role in peace negotiations.

Extremists attacked a hotel in Bamako in 2015, killing 19 people. Last month, the U.N. peacekeeping chief for Mali called the security situation there alarming, warning that extremist groups operating under the al-Qaida banner were carrying out more sophisticated attacks and Islamic State militants were slowly making inroads.

There has been slow progress in implementing a peace deal reached in June 2015 between Mali’s government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups in the north. In Laos, the tiny Catholic community has often struggled to persevere, including under communist-led rule. Mangkhanekhoun, 73, was ordained a priest in 1972 and has served as a bishop since 2001. The Vatican paid tribute to his work in visiting faithful in mountain villages. Since early this year, he has served as apostolic administrator in Vientiane.

Catholicism has been the majority religion in Spain and in El Salvador, although in parts of Central and South America, evangelical Protestant sects have been gaining converts from the Catholic church.

The resume of Chavez, 74, also includes credentials valued by the pope, who has made serving the poor a key focus of the Catholic church’s mission. Chavez heads the Latin American division of Caritas, the Catholic charity. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop in 1982 for San Salvador, where he now will be based as a cardinal after serving as a parish pastor in the city.

Chavez worked closely with the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who during El Salvador’s civil war was shot to death by a right-wing death squad while saying Mass in 1980. Pope Francis has denounced Catholic clerics who “defamed” Romero after the slaying, a campaign that delayed Romero’s eventual beatification.

Francis’ pick for the Spain cardinal’s post, Omella, 71, worked as a missionary in Zaire earlier in his career and serves on the Vatican’s powerful Congregation of Bishops office. Since December 2015, he has been archbishop of Barcelona.

In announcing his selections, Francis expressed hope that the new cardinals with their work and “their advice will sustain me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, universal pastor of the church.” In other remarks to the faithful in the square, Francis referred to the situation of another Catholic minority — Chinese whose loyalty to the pope has put them at odds with authorities of the state-sanctioned Catholic church in China, and sometimes brought persecution.

He prayed that Catholics in China would be able to bring their “personal contribution for the communion among believers and harmony in the entire society.” Francis is eager to see improved Vatican-China relations. Both sides have for decades been at odds over Chinese authorities’ insistence that they have the right to appoint bishops, a prerogative the Vatican says only belongs to the pope.

He urged Catholics in China to “stay open to meeting and dialogue, always.”

Sweden drops case but WikiLeaks’ Assange is not in the clear

May 19, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange, almost seven years after it began and five years after the WikiLeaks founder sought refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson declared Friday that “this is a total victory for Julian Assange. He is now free to leave the embassy when he wants.” But the picture is more complicated than that.

HAS ASSANGE BEEN EXONERATED?

No. The investigation began after two women accused Assange of sexual offenses during a 2010 visit to Stockholm — allegations he denies. Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning, and in June 2012 he sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid arrest.

After that, the investigation stalled. Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation. Marianne Ny, the Swedish director of public prosecutions announced Friday that she was dropping the rape case because there is no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden “in the foreseeable future” and it is “no longer proportionate” to maintain the European arrest warrant.

She told a news conference in Stockholm that the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020. Ny said the case was not being dropped because Assange has been found innocent.

“We don’t make any statement of guilty or not,” she said.

IS ASSANGE FREE TO LEAVE THE ECUADOREAN EMBASSY?

Sweden has revoked a European Arrest Warrant for Assange, so British police are no longer seeking him for extradition. But there is also a warrant issued by a British court after he skipped bail in June 2012.

London’s Metropolitan Police force says that it “is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.” The maximum sentence for that offense is a year in prison.

Assange said Friday that “my legal staff have contacted the U.K. authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward.”

Ecuador, which has granted Assange asylum, says it will step up diplomatic efforts to gain him safe passage to the Latin American country.

ARE THERE OTHER CHARGES AGAINST ASSANGE?

That’s unclear. Assange suspects there is a secret U.S. indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked classified American documents, which has infuriated U.S. officials. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has branded WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service,” and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that Assange’s arrest is a priority.

Both U.S. and British officials have declined to comment on whether there is a warrant for Assange’s arrest.

Assange told reporters Friday he would be happy to discuss his case with the U.S. Department of Justice.

DOES SWEDEN’S ACTION MAKE ASSANGE SAFER?

Some legal experts say it makes his position less secure. Until Friday, Britain was bound to honor Sweden’s extradition request before any warrant from the United States. That is no longer the case.

Lawyer David Allen Green, who has followed the case, tweeted: “Once outside embassy, Assange more at risk from any U.S. extradition attempt than if he had gone to Sweden.”

Assange could fight any U.S. extradition request in the British courts, a process that could take years.

WHITHER WIKILEAKS?

WikiLeaks’ release of classified material has continued unabated during Assange’s five years in the Ecuadorean embassy. On Friday, the group released what it said were new details of CIA cyberespionage tools.

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