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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comments on Noor

Noor's character and qualities:

i. Unselfish:: More unselfish persons may have existed, but are hard to come by.

ii. Truthful: She could not tell a lie.

iii. Kind and Loving.

iv. Polite: even in suffering

v. Stubborn:

vi. Loyal:

vii. Patient:

viii. Ingenious: She devised ways of escape from the Gestapo, and succeeded nearly in all three attempts she made.

ix. Perseverence

Among her accomplishments can be added her language skills: English, French, German, Spanish, Roman Urdu & Hindi

musician, poet, writer of children's stories, radio broadcaster

and master spy who saved the lives of 30 downed pilots, evaded the Gestapo for months when the life expentancy of spies was six weeks, became and maintained the sole lonk between six rsistance groups and London, did not break under extreme torture and degradation, maintained a dignified attitude throughout


Why did she volunteer to become a spy?

She had no attachment to the British Empire. She could have just gone to Britain, and lived there until France was liberated, then come back and resume her career as a writer, musician and narrator os stories on the radio.

If she did have to offer her services to the War Office, why did she volunteer to work as a spy. It was such a risky (almost certain torture and death) to do.

She was not French, although she had lived, been educated and worked there. So French nationalism was not a factor for her. She probably had a large number of friends, and was sympathetic to their cause.

Did she want to be remembered as an extraordinary woman? Was being read about by men a driving factor in what she had set out to do? Did her "fiancé" at the War Office indicate he liked "extraordinary women"?

Or was it the Nazi atrocities, which made her determined to put fight with the Nazis before anything else. The Vichy government of occupied France had started handing over Jewish children to the Nazis.

We can say with certainty that she was selfless, and had volunteered purely to fight Fascism.

She perhaps saw herself as an Internationalist. Born in Moscow to an Indian Muslim father, and an American white mother, raised in a circle of religious tolerance, fluent in English through mother tongue, French through early schooling and living most of her life in Paris, Spanish and German through language school, Urdu and Hindi (although not the script). She wrote Urdu and Hindi poetry in Roman script. She was also an anti-Imperialist.

Did she achieve what she had set out to do?

She never lied. She just went quiet. No matter what torture or humiliation she was made to suffer, she did not reveal any information regarding her contacts or her mission. She helped recover Allied pilots, and was the sole contact between the Resistance and the British for the few months she was operative, rendering excellent service. She thought men are impressed by extraordinary women, about whom men read. She is being so remembered, and men are reading of her life, and marveling at her valor.

Has the world become a better place?

Yes, the Nazi atrocities have gone, but the world retains their mentality. You only have to look at the behaviour of Empires towards their colonies. Then see the conduct of the cold war in the West, and hot wars in the developing countries. & finally you can look at the conduct of the Soviets in Afghanistan, of the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, of India in Kashmir, and of Israel in Palestine.

Was she a Muslim?

In her book Shribani Basu calls her a Muslim in several places.

Did she say the shahada? Did she pray the Salah? Did she fast in Ramadan? Did she read the Quran? Did she observe the dos and don'ts of Islam?

Her father, whose faith she had embraced, wrote that the rites are meaningless. In the Movement or Order he founded, no one had to leave his/hers faith/religion. There were no dietary or dress restrictions. It was left to the individual.

She wrote poetry in English, French, Urdu and Hindi. She was fluent in German and Spanish. She wrote Urdu in the Roman script, but expressed a desire to learn the script. No mention if she ever did. She learnt Hindi and expressed her intention to learn the Devnagiri script, so that she could learn Sanskrit.

She read the Koran and the Bible and she often read the Bhagwat Geeta for comfort.

If she hadn't learnt the Urdu script, it is unlikely she would have learnt the Arabic one, so it is safe to assume she read the translation of the meanings the Quran, not the Quran as originally revealed in Arabic.

From what I have read so far, nothing about Islamic beliefs or practices has been mentioned in any of the write-ups, or parts of the book about her that I have read. Indian newspapers do refer to her as a Muslim, but offer no evidence, except the name, and her father going to the West as a Sufi Pir. That he founded a new religion, is conveniently overlooked.

The Universal Sufism Movement broke up into loosely connected parts, controlled variously by Noor's Uncles and their inheritors. The main did pass again into the hands of Inayat Khan's son, who was Noor's closest person in the family, and perhaps shared her outlook on life and the Hereafter. He did not profess or practice Islam. His son Zia, however, is said to be a practicing Muslim.

She started out in a household where Indian traditions were observed, but not necessarily Islamic. The children are upset when someone tells them Santa Claus does not exist. They run to their father who says that whatever is thought of or talked about, exists in some other plane.

At the Music Institute, she got engaged to a Jewish fellow student from a working class background, without telling her family first, let alone seeking permission from them. She got him to join her deceased father's Sufi Movement, where her family and the Sufi Order discovered they were engaged to be married. They opposed it, and although she saw substance in their arguments, she hoped they would come around. Her fiancé's demands created conflicts within her which made her ill, and finally she had to call off the engagement.

Next she is reported to be sympathetic to a proposal for marriage previously made to her by a young Dutch follower of the Sufi Movement. A proposal of marriage from an Indian cousin (presumed Muslim, also from a Sufi background, but Indian Suf, not the Sufi Movement follower) is also almost finalised, but falls through.

When she started working, or maybe at school, she discarded the Indian dress and put on a more Western one. She cut her hair.

There is no mention of Islam's dietary restrictions observed by people in her father's Sufi Movement. Did her family did not observe any?

There is no mention of observing the Salah, fasting or the like. The religious services at the Order consisted of his lectures based on Oriental religions, and reading of texts from many religions' holy books.

When she joined the WAAF, she gave her name as Nora Baker, and her religion as Church of England. It was to avoid unnecessary complications, but then she joined Church of England services with the rest of the recruits.

When being interviewed and trained for intelligence work by the master codeman Leo Marks, she is said to have remarked that she would like to use two pigs (in a Buddhist tale) for imagining what Matks had told her to do with monkeys. She had no abhorrence then for pigs, as Muslims have.

Next we learn that she announced her engagement to a person at the War Office. Nothing more is mentioned about the man. Since Muslims were scarce in England, it is safe to assume that her fiancé was not a Muslim.

Finally, some of her colleagues say she and Antelme (a fellow SOS agent) became lovers when they were on the run from the Gestapo, and that they planned marriage on their return to Britain). Maybe, maybe not, but in any case, Antelme was not a Muslim.

Her sister Claire (Khairun-Nisa) married a Mr. Harper. She and her son, David Harper were interviewed by BBC program Timeline program, broadcast as "The Spy Princess" in 2006. This was in connection with Noor's life.

All in all, the movement and the family have been moving away from Islam to an amalgam of Faiths.

So Noor had access to the Quran, yet preferred not to observe the do's and don’t's, and considered all religions at par, all Gods as manifestations of the same. Jesus, to her, must have been God's face too, as her Order is a proponent of wahdatul wujood, the Oneness of Existence - all existence is part of God.

Shirk, as we see it.