Islamist Terror Concerns Put Eurovision Preparations on Edge

Snipers are being deployed on rooftops this week ahead of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, with security forces scrambling to protect Israel’s delegation from Islamist threats.  Planned demonstrations from the city’s large and militant Muslim community threaten to tear apart the southern Swedish city of Malmö.

With 100,000 visitors descending on Malmö for the televised music event sponsored by European broadcasting agencies (with input from Israel and Australia), the Israeli and Swedish authorities are united in fear of jihadist violence against travelling Jews.

Israeli participant Eden Golan was noticeably absent from the contest’s opening ceremony Sunday, citing her attendance at a Holocaust remembrance event—with the singer understood to be keeping a low profile due to fear of jihadi assassination attempts. 

Malmö is already notorious as a centre for gangs, migrant crime and regular Islamist violence. Israel’s National Security Council has described a “well-founded fear” of terrorism at the six-day-long music competition. Organisers have been preparing for the security challenges posed by hostilities in Gaza, with the city’s Muslim residents reportedly cheering upon news of the October 7th massacres by Hamas.

The city has played host to violent demonstrations led by a combination of leftist and Islamic protestors almost every Saturday since the outbreak of hostilities, with many on the Swedish Left calling for Israel to be blocked—like Russia—from participating in Eurovision.

Eurovision organisers have declared their intention to remove any Palestinian flags or symbols from audience members, with Swedish police warning of a risk of bombings, shootings, and even kidnappings at the politically charged competition.

The cost of policing Eurovision in Malmö has reportedly tipped the organising budget over the edge. The city’s budget for the event has landed at 30 million Swedish krona (around €2.6 million)—but that figure does not include costs for security or staff, according to project manager Karin Karlsson. Israel was also being requested to change the original name of its song ‘October Rain,’ due to allegations it was referencing last year’s Hamas-led terror attacks on Israeli citizens and therefore political.

Security observers also note the dangers to what the event’s organisers call its “LGBTQI-friendly environments.” Official concerns about the risk of local violence against homosexuals invite further ridicule of campaign groups such as ‘Queers for Palestine.’

Malmö hosts a large Muslim diaspora population from Syria, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia. It was previously the subject of large-scale Islamist riots last year, provoked by controversial Quran burnings that delayed Swedish entry to NATO. Figures show that the city’s Jewish population has halved to just under 1,000 since 2010, with many feeling driven away by the fear of violence (a trend repeated across Western Europe in areas with highly concentrated Islamic populations).

The Eurovision Song Contest concludes May 11th. It is not the only European cultural event marred by the risk of Islamic terrorism: France faces a similar security predicament at the impending Olympic Games scheduled for July after IS-linked websites published terror threats against the Champions League in April.

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