It is fast approaching the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in which hostilities ceased on the Western front. The date is now significant in our collective memory for the remembrance of those who have given up so much in defence of the country and the people that they love.
It is typical of this time of year to hear the amplified voices of a select few occidentalist, far-right British Muslims who insist on making empty gestures of hostility to the significance of Remembrance Day. The breaking of the two minute silence by clad-in-black Islamist fanatics to shout “British soldiers burn in hell” offends us all. And whilst it is their right to hold and to speak such sentiments – after all, the secular democracy that was fought for, includes their right to oppose – their hostility should not drown out the voices of those Muslims over the years who have fought and died for this country. It is their memory also, that the fanatics offend. It is the memory of Muslim soldiers and intelligence officers, that Islamist fanatics set on fire when they throw a lit match at a Poppy doused in petrol. It is imperative that their memory be upheld and respected at every opportunity.
One of my favourite places in the UK is Falmouth down in Cornwall. Life is less stressful on the south coast, and the further west you travel the more at ease life feels. The beautiful little picturesque British sea side town of Falmouth – whilst playing home to a fantastic little Fish and Chip shop – also played home, in the 1940s, to the Inayat Khan family. A Muslim family of Indian descent, the Khan family – lead by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Western Sufi teacher – landed in Cornwall after the Nazis overran their home in France. Soon after arriving in Falmouth, Hazrat’s daughter – the peace loving, gentle mannered Noor Inayat Khan – had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and worked her way quickly to a position in which she was working for British Intelligence. She soon became the first female radio operator to be flown into the middle of Nazi occupied France to relay messages back to Britain on the French resistance. She could speak fluent French, and was an expert in wire communication.
In 1943, most of her unit in the French Resistance in Paris were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst. London tried to persuade Noor to return, due to fear that she’d be arrested. But she stayed in Paris, despite the threat, and continued to work for the British. She refused to leave her unit behind without communications expertise, worrying that they’d be captured and killed. The Nazis had information on her, and considered her a threat. They spent an extraordinary amount of effort to find and detain Noor and referred to her as a “danger”.
In October, Noor was arrested and held captive, but refused to give up any information to the Nazis. She was held on the fifth floor of Gestapo HQ and twice made attempts to escape. She was sent to Pforsheim Prison in November, and interrogated for weeks, still refusing to give up any information, remaining completely loyal to Britain and the resistance throughout. Throughout her imprisonment, she was kept in chains, and held in solitary confinement. There is also suggestion that she would have been repeatedly, and brutally tortured. But she still refused to talk.
Less than a year later, Noor Inayat Khan was taken to Dachau Camp, and despite more torture, more confinement, and more horrific mistreatment, still refused to give up any information. Her ultimatum was now give up information, or be murdered. Her extraordinary moral conviction led her to make the decision none of us could ever conceive of being in a position to make. She chose the latter option. Noor was executed by a Nazi gunman on September 12th, 1944.
Her bravery and moral conviction, her refusal to cave into Fascist thuggery, and her loyalty to the Britain that gave her family protection, and the French resistance, earned her the British George Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. She was the third of only three Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps members to be awarded the George Cross.
So when we see the images of the viciously anti-Western, bigoted far-right Islamist groups take to social media, and the streets of Britain to protest & injure the memory of fallen heroes, to burn and vandalise, to shout abuse and play the victim-card, it is important that those we remember include the sacrifices made by Noor Inayat Khan and countless Muslims who fought for and continue to fight for the sake of the universal right of freedom and liberal, secular democracy. Their memory should always be upheld.