Inayat Khan is a prime example why many consider Sufism the best hope for
moderation in the increasingly radicalized Islamic world. Inspired by the
values of her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, an internationally respected Sufi
teacher, Inayat Khan volunteered for the most dangerous duty possible with
Britain’s clandestine service, the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Her
short but heroic career is chronicled in Enemy
of the Reich: the Noor Inayat Khan Story (promo here), which premieres
this Tuesday on PBS.
average survival rate for SOE radio operators was a mere six weeks. The
recruiters and organizers who dealt directly with partisans also faced
considerable dangers, but it was always simply a matter of time before the
feared German radio trucks eventually traced those who relayed and received communications
with London. Inayat Khan would beat the averages, but she was nearly swept up
in a massive Gestapo operation days after her arrival in France.
course, Inayat Khan had certain advantages for cloak and dagger work.
Reportedly, the National Socialists were a bit slow on the uptake when it came
to female agents. Evidently, they completely forgot Mata Hari. The fact that
Inayat Khan was the Muslim daughter of Indian and American parents (born in
Moscow) might have also been somewhat reassuring, considering the Grand Mufti
of Jerusalem and Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose publicly sided with
the National Socialists.
contrast, Inayat Khan was a genuine idealist (and children’s book author), who
was almost too principled to convince the SOE gatekeepers to send her into the
field. Unfortunately, the inescapably inevitable ending will come as no
surprise, especially for anyone familiar with the grim realities of resistance
director Robert H. Gardner and writer Carrie Gardner provide an intriguing look
inside the SOE’s training, deployment, and service. Their combination of
talking heads, archival images, and dramatic re-enactments does not exactly break
new docu-ground, but Grace Srinivasan’s striking presence should be noted.
Although she does not have much dialogue or even much traditional dramatic
work, she still conveys Inayat Khan’s vulnerability and resoluteness quite
Enemy is a nicely
assembled package, notably featuring the always classy Dame Helen Mirren as its
narrator. Altogether, it is another informative hour-long PBS WWII special that
maybe does not quite reach the level of the better theatrical feature
documentaries, but never outstays its welcome. Recommended for viewers
interested in WWII and Sufism, Enemy of
the Reich: the Noor Inayat Khan Story airs this coming Tuesday (9/9) on PBS
Labels: Noor Inayat Khan, PBS, WWII