Published: 11 Novemeber, 2010
by JOHN GULLIVER
THE story of Noor Inayat Khan – an Indian woman who spied for the Allies in the Second World War and died in a concentration camp – is little known.
In these days when the very word Muslim conjures up – for some people – disturbing thoughts, this story is more than significant.
Thankfully, only a minority have such thoughts about Muslims.
Now, the name of Noor Inayat Khan, will, hopefully become better known, for a memorial in her memory is planned to be unveiled next year in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury – a stone’s throw from the house she lived in as a child. Shrabani Basu, the author of a book about Noor, (Spy Princess, Sutton Publishing, £9.99) told me the memorial would be a tribute to an unlikely hero.
Noor, the daughter of a respected Sufi mystic, volunteered to spy for Britain when she was in her mid-20s. She spoke fluent French, and, as France was under Nazi occupation at the time, was dropped behind enemy lines to help aid the Resistance.
She was captured and tortured but refused to give information about her collaborators. Even the Gestapo officer who caught her testified to her braveness at his trial after the war, apparently crying when told of her eventual fate at the Dachau concentration camp.
“Even though she was told she would be killed she wanted to help in the war as it was part of her principles,” Shrabani told me. “There’s a difference between a professional soldier and someone like this, who was from a fairly genteel background. She was a musician and a writer. Everything about her was so different, yet she was so brave. When I started researching her life I was interested in her primarily because she was an Indian woman. Her being Muslim was secondary – but in the times we are living in now it turns out to be quite significant.”
Those trying to erect a memorial to her in Gordon Square now need to raise £60,000 to pay for the scheme.