Noor Inayat Khan

March 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm (anti-fascism, good people, history, india, posted by JD, war)

Honouring an anti-fascist hero and woman of incredible courage:

Noorunissa Inayat Khan, 1st class.

Noor Inayat Khan: 1st class.

The Royal Mail has issued a postage stamp of Noorunissa (‘Noor’) Inayat Khan, World War II heroine, who fought fascism and died in the Dachau concentration camp.

The stamp — part of a set of ten in the ‘Remarkable Lives’ series — honours Noor on her centenary year. Others in the series include Alec Guinness and Dylan Thomas,

“I am delighted that Royal Mail has commemorated Noor with a stamp,” said Shrabani Basu, author of Spy Princess, the Life of Noor Inayat Khan, and Chair of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust: “it will ensure that her sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow in January 1914 to an Indian father, Hazrat Inayat Khan and an American mother, Ora Ray Baker. The couple met in the Ramkrishna Mission ashram in America. Hazrat Inayat Khan was a Sufi preacher and musician who travelled the world promoting Sufism.

Noor was brought up in Paris and the family moved to London when France fell in 1940. Noor joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was later recruited to the Special Operations Executive, a secret organisation set up by Churchill for espionage purposes.

She was the first female radio operator to be flown undercover to Paris, where she worked for three months under the code name Madeleine. However, she was betrayed, arrested and finally executed in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

Though she was interrogated under torture, she revealed nothing — not even her real name. Her last word as she was shot was “Liberte!” She was 30.

(Adapted from an article by Parvathi Menon in The Hindu, March 24, 2014)

H/t: Alan Johnson and Iam Farruk, via Facebook.


  1. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    It is naive to just reproduce claims made about those judged to have dies heroically by a book’s author, when little is likely to be known. Just about all WW2 ‘heroes’ are always written to have died thus, and for quite a few, it is often claimed they also shortened the war by X amount. It’s tempting (I’d like to think Henk Sneevliet died singing the ‘International’ as claimed, but it sounds too convenient a tale) but it should not be done.

    She may have fought fascism but did so in the service of another imperialism, an imperialism (British) that often acted in fascist manner outside its heartland in its suppression of its Asian and African colonies.

    Far better would be a stamp commemorating Bose (Netaji) who fought with fascists (Japanese) to attempt to remove the British fascists (e.g. see Bengal famine) from India in WW2 and in full and certain knowledge that he would need to turn his guns on the Japanese if the bloody Raj had been destroyed then.

    • Matthew Blott said,

      I might confuse you for Seamus Milne except I will credit him with a good grasp of grammar and an ability to spell properly. Anyone who spied on the Nazis (in this case behind enemy lines) was brave as the penalty being caught would have been certain death.

    • Jim Denham said,

      • Ben said,

        On a visit to the main bookshop of the Indian city of Pune a few years ago I saw two large piles of books at the centre of the store’s display. They were clearly best-selling titles of that time. One was a biography of Bose, the other was Mein Kampf.

    • Niels Christensen said,

      Not everything in life is a competition. Why not just commemorate the courage of Noorunissa (‘Noor’) Inayat Khan, and the surprising number of other women fought in the SOE, many who sacrified their lives.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,


        As communists, we do not go for the ‘they were simply brave’ theory of history. Of course many individuals were brave in WW2, including doubtless even a few SS soldiers who will have undertaken individual heroic actions, despite the appalling general actions of the SS.

        However, you need to look at why someone was fighting and whom they were fighting for. Maybe you agree with that – a ‘brave’ SS solider risking his life to save his comrades when his troop comes across fierce resistance from the inhabitants of a village they are about to wipe out would be somewhat missing the point.

        So what did SOE do? As well as its anti-Nazi activities, the SOE was an anti-communist organisation and, in Greece, it supported the murderous crushing of Greek Left fighters from 1944 onwards until the start of the Greek Civil War in 1946 and which saw Britain then continue as a prime support for the Greek government’s killing of many ‘communists’. My attitude to any such SOE member then is that they should have been shot by the Greek fighters, not praised.

        That would be a fairly common view amongst Trotskyists and that’s why it is appalling that a supposed revolutionary socialist, like Denham, would write in praise of issuing a stamp of a SOE member – a body that arose from MI6 and went back in 1946 into that same nest of assassins, villains, thugs and proto-fascists..

  2. Matthew Blott said,

    I’d heard about Noorunissa Inayat Khan some time ago and found her story very moving. I understand she was initially shunned somewhat by the British authorities for the obvious reasons. A very brave woman of colour who more people should be aware of.

  3. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    Bose more worked with the Nazis, as did other nationalist leaders e.g. Irish republicans. I am a supporter of the Leninist line that we don’t require nationalist leaders to be Lefts as a precondition to support the nationalist struggle they may lead. In much the same way, a communist would support the Taliban nationalists now as Marx supported the rebellious sepoys (in what you probably call the ‘Indian Mutiny’) then, even though some of them were similar to the Taliban.

    Matthew – I see only a typo only in my comment above. You are missing the comma in “in this case, behind enemy lines.” The end of your second comment also employs poor grammar.

    But it is your first comment that is politically illiterate. I’m sure Milne would take the line of following what the USSR did and which would not have been (at least openly) to have included applauding the actions of Bose in taking a small part of NE India from his British ally.

    Ben – It is correct that the Nazis are not seen in the same way in India as here; you will see Mein Kampf on sale and people may dress up as Nazis at fancy dress events and this does not generate the raised eyebrows it would here.

    That’s not to diminish the evil of Nazism but simply reflective of different histories. In some Indian communities of South America, the perennial evil figures – in puppets, stories, plays – are whites (not Nazis), probably of Conquistador origin ,but also reflective of who has oppressed them in their later histories. It would benefit all socialists to see the limitations of trying to interpret other societies through the history of their nation.

    • Jim Denham said,

      “Bose more worked with the Nazis, as did other nationalist leaders e.g. Irish republicans”: what a disgrace! A disgrace on the part of the pro-Nazi collaborators themselves (eg Bose and some Irish republicans like Frank Ryan) and anyone who apologises for them (eg Southpaw). As Lenin died before the Nazis emerged, I don’t think his name can be used to justify your foul, relativist, pro-Nazi (and pro-Taliban) prostration.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        From the article you link to – “(Bose’s) desire to leave for Berlin was . . . not the result of latent ideological fascination with fascism but purely a strategic and political decision.”

        No-one is pro Nazi here but some are more knowledgeable about their history e.g. correct early Nazi/KPD sometimes collaboration.

        You want to ignore Lenin and Marx – fine. Let’s do Trotsky:

        “A dictator can also play a very progressive role in history; for example, Oliver Cromwell, Robespierre, etc. On the other hand, right in the midst of the English democracy Lloyd George exercised a highly reactionary dictatorship during the war. Should a dictator place himself at the head of the next uprising of the Indian people in order to smash the British yoke – would Maxton (ILP) then refuse this dictator his support? Yes or no? If not, why does he refuse his support to the Ethiopian “dictator” who is attempting to cast off the Italian yoke?

        If Mussolini triumphs, it means the reinforcement of fascism, the strengthening of imperialism, and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in Africa and elsewhere. The victory of the Negus, however, would mean a mighty blow not only at Italian imperialism but at imperialism as a whole, and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples. One must really be completely blind not to see this.”

        Trotsky was clear in his support for the wholly reactionary Negus as he was the leader in the fight against Italian occupation.I suspect the Negus wasn’t big on intersectionality.

        In the same way Bose was the only Leader willing to fight to kick out the Brits (inlcl before WW2) and clashed fiercely with Gandhi and his defeatist pacifist stance. A worthy figure for a UK stamp.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    More shameful stuff from ‘Southpaw Punch’, a filthy apologist willing to justify collaboration with the Nazis on the basis, it seems, of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Despicable.

    If all that SPP was arguing is that the reactionary politics and opportunist alliances of some national liberation campaigners does not negate the justice of their underlying cause, then I could agree. But SPP is clearly *not* arguing that: he’s saying that alliances with Nazis are OK and, perhaps, even, necessary.

    PS: even Trotsky got some things wrong, and his stance on Negus was one of them. But today’s revolutionaries, with the benefit of hindsight and further experience and reflection, have no excuse.

  5. jamesldavis said,

    Buenas dias! what did usa do after Nazi get to dunkirk and rance under Goosesteps ,Blitz over Precious Isle Nothing! what did the Gen Ike do about Hungar. West about Czechoslovakia, Ussr Afghan usa cancelled and ruined Moscow and La Oympics! Once the Red Army sees Swastikas in Kiev Solders star Moving West w/o Orders! new govt in Kiev will not be happy until they see 50,000 tanks and hear ‘ what we have here is a failure to Commuicate !! Putin did”t make a moave until he Notify the red Guards cooks can Govern

  6. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    Thank-you James. Even though you are a obviously a madman, what you write is certainly a lot more cogent than Denham’s contributions.

  7. John Gray said,

    I thought this post was suppose to be about a very brave young black women who volunteed to risk her life to fight against facism and paid the price by suffering a horrible death in a Nazi concentration camp…? FFS.

    • Jim Denham said,

      I’ve been away and off the air since Wednesday, otherwise comment # 5 would have been deleted on sight and the pro-Nazi collaborationist Southpaw would presumably not have felt the need to comment further.

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