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Commemorating 40 years on from Munich: A Threat to National Security?

This is a guest post by Jonathan H

On 5 September 1972, in the Olympic Village in Munich, eight terrorists from ‘Black September’ took hostage members of the Israeli Olympics team, demanding the release of more than 200 Palestinians and non-Arabs in prison in Israel, as well as two German terrorists, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, founders of the German Red Army Faction. Their demands were refused and the atrocity ended with the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and one German policeman.

The 40th anniversary of the murders will be in 2012. It would be entirely fitting if there were to be a commemoration at the London Olympics and even more so if it were organised by the IOC and attended by Count Jacques Rogge.

You would not imagine that such a commemoration would be controversial. But you would be wrong. Michael Mumisa, an Islamic scholar at the Woolf Institute in Cambridge (the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations), is one of four experts hired by Scotland Yard to train the police in inter-faith issues. According to today’s Times, Mumisa is warning that the commemoration could become a “national security threat” if it is not managed properly and were to be perceived by Muslims as “hijacking” the Games.

The threat could be exacerbated (according to Edward Kessler (executive director of the Woolf Institute)) by the fact that the Olympics will fall during Ramadan: “You’re going to have a lot of tired, hungry, less evenly tempered people because they haven’t eaten for 18 hours.”

I wonder if the experts advising the police will tell us what commemoration of the Munich atrocity they feel would be acceptable? Do they think that the bereaved families should have a say, for example? In other anniversaries of terrorist atrocities, they certainly do – think of the 9/11 anniversaries at ‘Ground Zero’ in New York. At the very least, the experts advising the police might tell us how a ceremony to remember the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and one German policeman in Munich in 1972 could possibly “threaten national security”.