Posts Tagged ‘ Indian Muslims ’

Memorial for Noor Inayat Khan, SOE Agent and Daughter of Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan

As Reported by The Sufi Times

This past New Years Day would have marked the 96th birthday of Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, an Indian muslim woman who was shot dead in a Nazi concentration camp in September 1944, after being the first female radio operator to infiltrate occupied France.

Her courage and self-sacrifice during World War II are to be honoured by a memorial which has been proposed to be raised in London’s Bloomsbury area next year. It will be the first war memorial in Britain either for a Muslim or an Asian woman.

The project has the support of 34 Members of Parliament and a number of prominent British Asians, including human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti and film director Gurinder Chadha, OBE. Permission has been granted by London University and the local authority to build a sculpture in Gordon Square. A sculptor has already been commissioned and the organisers now need to raise £60,000 to complete the project, of which about £25,000 has already been raised.

Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of acclaimed Sufi teacher and musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 – 1927), who was one of the first people to bring Sufi teachings to the modern Western world. He established the “Sufi Order in the West”, which survives in various forms to this day and has followers around the world.

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, a king of Mysore who ruled during the time of the East India compay and who had died in battle against the Duke of Wellington in 1799. Hazrat Inayat Khan had been initiated into the Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi tariqas, but his primary initiation was from Shaykh Muhammed Abu Hashim Madani into the Nizamiya branch of the Chishti order (named after Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya, died 1325).

Being an accomplished musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan went to America to tour with a group of musicians, playing mainly traditional court music on his veena and singing. During this time, he attracted a number of students to Sufism and met his wife, Ora Meena Ray Baker, an American from New Mexico who was of English-Irish-Scottish descent. They had their first child, Noor, in Moscow (1914), where Inayat Khan had gone to perform. Three more children were to follow: Vilayat (1916), Hidayat (1917) and Khair-un-Nisa (1919).

When Noor was four years old the family moved to Paris. Noor grew up in an environment steeped in Sufi teachings. Her father established a Sufi centre and regularly held Sufi meditation meetings with a growing number of students, lectured widely and authored a number of books.

Noor went on to study at the Sorbonne, and in her mid-20’s became an author of children’s stories. At the outbreak of war Noor’s family returned to her motherland and they moved into rooms in Bloomsbury Square in London. The site of the memorial which is to built in her name is, therefore, very appropriate.

Both Noor and her brother Vilayat decided they would do something to help the Allied Forces in their efforts against the Nazi threat. Vilayat joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) and trained as a pilot, whilst Noor joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Because of her fluent French, she was given a position in the new Special Operations Executive (SOE) of the British Secret Service. The SOE was desperately looking for radio operators who could be positioned in enemy territory to send back intelligence by wireless.

Her recruiters were not at first convinced of her suitability for the role. One of them noted, “Not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keenness, apart from some dislike of [the] security side of the course. She has an unstable and temperamental personality and it is very doubtful whether she is really suited to work in the field.”

But in June 1943, she became the first female SOE agent to be parachuted into enemy occupied territory in France. According to Sir Colin Gubbins, head of the SOE, she had “occupied the principal and most dangerous post in France”. As a radio operator she was on the front line of intelligence operations, a dangerous role not for the faint-hearted. She was once stopped by the Gestapo whilst cycling with her radio equipment, but managed to convince them that it was a cinema projector.

However, it eventually transpired that the French resistance group she had been sent to help had already been infiltrated by Nazi agents and within weeks of her arrival hundreds of operatives had been arrested and shot.

Noor turned down the opportunity to return to Britain, choosing to remain behind as the SOE’s only radio contact in or near Paris. She was given a life-expectancy of three weeks, but survived for three months.

But then she was betrayed by Renée Garry, the sister of one of her French Resistance colleagues. The reason for this betrayal is not clear. Some reports say Garry was jealous of Noor’s role as an SOE agent, others say she was jealous of her beauty. In any case, she was seized by the German Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp in Pflozheim. Here she was routinely tortured for weeks, but refused to give up any information to her interrogators.

On 11 September 1944, Noor, together with three other female SOE colleagues, were taken by cars to the concentration camp in Dachau, arriving in the dark. During the night, they were tortured again. Early on the morning of September 12, they were marched out to the dog kennels, forced to kneel two by two and each was shot in the back of the head. Their bodies were incinerated in Dachau’s infamous ovens. Her last words before she died were ‘liberte’.

Shrabani Basu is Noor Inayat Khan’s biographer and founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust. She spent eight years researching Noor’s life from war archives and family records, and has more recently been involved in the planning of the new memorial. Basu remarked, “I feel it is very important that what she did should not be allowed to fade from memory, particularly living in the times that we do. Here was a young Muslim woman who gave her life for this country and for the fight against those who wanted to destroy the Jewish race. She was an icon for the bond that exists between Britain and India but also between people who fought for what they believed to be right.”

Of the SOE’s 55 female agents, 13 died in action or at the hands of the Nazis. One of those killed (Violette Szabo) and one who survived (Odette Hallowes) have had popular movies made about their lives.

The initial unfavourable assessment made by Noor’s recruiters was in stark contrast to the note that her commander and head the SOE’s French section, Maurice Buckmaster, later made of her: “A most brave and touchingly keen girl. She was determined to do her bit to hit the Germans and, poor girl, she has.”

In France, Noor is already widely recognized as a war hero. There are two memorials for her, and a ceremony is held each year.

In 1975, a commemoration plaque was installed at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, by the State of Massachusetts. It displays Noor’s name and the names of the three others who were executed with her on September 12th 1944.

To this day, nothing has been built in Britain to commemorate the life of this Indian Sufi Muslim woman who courageously sacrificed her life for freedom and the British contribution to the war against Fascism. It is hoped that the proposed memorial will be built to redress this oversight.

Why My Father Hated India

By Aatish Taseer for The Wall Street Journal

Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.

Iqbal’s vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India’s Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.

This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.

But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.

In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.

Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.

But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.

Pakistan’s existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.

Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.

But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.

As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet’s utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.

The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” against India.

In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba’s 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.

The army’s duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.

This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country’s wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.

The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India’s sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal’s unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father’s tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.

This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan’s obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness.

—Mr. Taseer is the author of “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands.” His second novel, “Noon,” will be published in the U.S. in September

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Aatish Taseer’s brutally honest and forthright column is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.  As a Pakistani American, I find a lot of truth in what he is saying, no matter how ill received it may be back in Pakistan, I feel that Aatish does make some good points and it was well worth sharing with you readers.

Allama Iqbal: The Great philosopher Poet of Pakistan

By G. Sabir for Iqbal Academy Scandinavia

Nature gives birth to great philosophers and poets when the need arises. Natural calamities, wars, epidemics, storms and earthquakes etc causing human sufferings have always given birth to creative minds. Plato was born in 420 BC when his country had almost been ruined as a result of Peloponnesian war. Iqbal was born in 1877 AD when the inhabitants of India were suffering from miseries and deaths while struggling for the Independence of their country from British rule.

The people of Muslim community of India were the worst hit. They were being crushed ruthlessly. At that time Iqbal’s poetry played miraculous role. It awakened the people from slumbering hopelessness, made them stood on their own feet. They were united and then fought courageously for Independence with the result that they achieved a free homeland for them within a few years time.

Creative thinker

This means that despite being a creative thinker, Iqbal was addressing the situation at hand. The ideas he enunciated, though intrinsically creative in themselves and abiding in appeal beyond a particular time and place, were yet primarily meant to salvage the bleak Muslim situation in India and the world at large. This makes Iqbal, in a sense, oriented towards the Indian Muslim psyche and situation.

This framework makes his periodic forays into discussing and suggesting solutions to the problems of the Muslim world at large and his consuming concern with the ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930) – a logical extension of his role as a modern Muslim ideologue, attempting to analyze and, see Muslim India’s problems and predicament on a wider canvas and in a total context. After all, Iqbal regarded India, if only because of the Muslim numerical strength, as ‘the greatest Muslim country in the world’, to quote his own words. These tasks, both critical and onerous as they were, he fulfilled squarely.

Effective medium

His emotion-leaden and soul-lifting poetry was the medium Iqbal chose to bring his people a new awareness of the depths of degradation to which they had fallen, to diagnose their ailments, their predicament and the prime cause of their decline and to warn them of the dire consequences if they failed to mend themselves in good time. A more effective medium he could not have possibly chosen.

For one thing, poetry is the most powerful medium for touching the deepest emotions of people and for driving a message into their subconscious. For another, the Indian Muslims had been among the most poetry-oriented people in the wold, with a long tradition of readily taking to heart what was written in verse. Political orations may stir and audience into action, but their impact is bound to be restricted to a particular audience and dissipate with time and events. In contrast, a poetic message seeps through the ethos of a nation, working on its psyche all the while.

Political leaders

Hence Iqbal achieved through his poems what a thousand speeches could not. But for the silence mental preparation that had gone on for long decades, the people would not have responded to the call of political leaders – in this case, especially of Jinnah during the 1937-47 epochal decade. No wonder, the pandals of the League sessions from Lucknow (1937) onwards were plastered with Iqbal’s couplets, calling on Muslims to rise and take their destiny in their own. Iqbal was quoted oft and on to rouse Muslims to a new awareness of their destiny. All this had an electrifying effect on the audience since Iqbal, though generally complex and couched in an appropriate idiom, was, straightforward and yielded clear guidelines.

Besides being a poet of extraordinary merit, Iqbal was a thinker of a high order. Thus, while Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Jinnah provided political leadership to Muslims, Iqbal took upon himself the task of setting the intellectual tone for Muslim thought and action. (Previously, this was done by Sir Syed’s, writing and the Aligarh school). In addressing himself to this task, Iqbal brought a revolution in Muslim thinking at various levels, he also made a significant contribution to keeping them stolidly anchored to their pristine ideology and historical legacy.

New consciousness

His role in awakening the Muslims to a new consciousness began in 1899 when he recited a poem at the annual session of the Anjuman-i-Islam, Lahore. His moving ‘Nala-i-Yatim’ was symbolic of the echoing cry of the faceless masses of the Indian Muslims, who had long felt themselves sidelined neglected.

What pained him most was the impact of nationalism on various Muslim countries, eroding the pan-Islamic concept, enfeebling the Muslim world and laying it open to European aggression and exploitation.

To the ailments the Muslim world was afflicted with, Iqbal found the solution in Islam and its message. In order to reach the innermost recesses of their consciousness, he invoked the past glory of Islam, telling Muslims of the accomplishments of their ancestors. In so doing, he tried to fight off the prevalent slough of despondency, raising drooping spirit of Muslims and replacing it with a sense of soaring confidence.

Message of hope

Next, he gave them a message of hope. He told them that they could still redeem themselves if they could only recapture their soul and regain their pristine moral and spiritual values.

He emphasized the imperative need to develop human qualities and the right type of character. He attributed their degeneration to their taking to a life of passivity and resignation for several generations. That debilitating trend could be reversed by opting for initiative and endeavour which, he believed, Islam stood for. To him, an active, struggling non-believer was preferable to a sleeping Muslim.

But if Muslims were to be beckoned to a new destiny, they must first be confirmed as Muslims and they must own up their pristine values. This was all he more necessary in the context of the rise of positivism and skepticism, which posed a serious challenge to the modern Muslim.

Modern Muslim

To Iqbal, the task before the modern Muslim is to re-think the whole system of Islam without completely breaking with the past. And this crucial task he undertook in a series of lectures since compiled as ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930). In these he argued that Islam represented a philosophy of action, for faith without action was a life bereft of any significance. Seldom does a poet exert such profound influence on the course of history and in changing the destiny of a nation. But Iqbal did because his accomplishments extended far beyond the realm of mere imagination and into the sphere of objective realities, because in the final years of his eventful life he donned the mantle of an ideologue, besides being a national poet. And, to be sure, all of Iqbal’s efforts throughout the whole span of his active life were directed towards the regeneration of Muslims and the resurgence of Islam.

Human rights

The question, ‘do we need Iqbal today?’ The reply is a clear ‘Yes’. It is a need of the time, because the honour of humanity is at stake. The preachers of human rights are abusing humanity. Masses of men are being trampled ruthlessly under the heavy feet of the powerful. There is dearth of love in the world these days. Iqbal is a messenger of love. His message of love is universal… the humanity needs him.. we do need him without any doubt.

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