He is Knud Valdemar Gylding Holmboe, a famous Danish journalist, travel writer and author of the acclaimed Desert Encounter, known for its controversial and outspoken condemnation of the ruthless acts of the colonial regimes of North Africa, particularly the Italian authority, at the hands of which, the Muslim population of Libya faced some of the most horrific atrocities known to history.

 

 

Himself a victim of oppression by Italians during their colonization of Libya, Holmboe’s traveling nature took him from Denmark to Morocco, the Egyptian deserts, then Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, among other parts of North Africa, where he witnessed the violation of human rights at the hands of European colonialism. Similarly, his pure psyche and contemplative soul guided his faith to Catholicism before he converted again and settled for Islam.

Fearing nothing and nobody was a foremost characteristic of Knud. It cost him his life while bringing to light the most vivid accounts of brutality and injustices practiced by colonial regimes in North Africa. Knud broke all shackles hampering a true practice of freedom. He defied local and international sensors, in protection of the weak and the oppressed. And may be his adventurous nature was another was another side of his character that best served his fight for justice.

The relatively luxurious and monotonous life of Denmark didn’t befit Knud, the eldest son of a Danish manufacturer in Horsens, sending him on a multi-staged adventures that suited his reflective mentality and rebellious nature.

Born in April 1902, Holmboe developed both skill and inclination for writing at quite an early age. After finishing his primary education, Knud was hired as a journalist apprentice. He worked for several local papers in Denmark. And at the age of nineteen he wrote a collection of poems depicting life, death belief and the desert- this was the beginning. His first attempt however removed the veil over a sensitive and exceptionally daring writer whose skills equaled if not surpassed his experienced compatriots.

His second attempt at professional writing was during his stay in Morocco, a book titled “Between the Devil and The Deep Sea – a dash by plane to seething Morocco”.

Knud developed similar passion for religion and philosophy that got him more attached to Catholicism. At the age of 20, Knud embraced Christianity and moved to France where he lived in a monastery for a period of time. But this very same pondering nature soon got him more attached towards Islam.

In 1924, Holmboe traveled to Morocco where he learned more about Islam and actually decided to convert once again, becoming a Muslim and changing his name to Ali Ahmed.

Knud’s decision to embrace Islam followed a meeting he had with a sheikh inside a tiny mountain mosque in Morocco, where for the first time Knud felt he was more of a Muslim than a follower of any other faith.

His tendency for traveling didn’t stop here. Besides the Balkans, Knud continued to travel throughout North Africa, raising the same flag of truth and freedom of speech.

Holmboe set off on a set of journeys, exploring the deserts and living among Persian and Arab communities, including, Iraq, Jordan, with the plan to reach Egypt. But his stop at Libya was the most notable of all.

For Knud, Libya was vivid encounter with violation of human rights. He saw the genocide of Libyans at the hands of the Italian colonial forces. All sorts of violations and crimes were practiced against the Muslim population of Libya. From barbaric executions, hangings, and genocide, to destruction of livestock, extreme poverty and thus death, Libyans’ life was made impossible.

Knud Holmboe, credited for the most truthful accounts depicting the maltreatment of Libyans at the hands of the Italian powers, wrote everything he saw and took as many pictures as he could.

He even joined the Libyan resistance and fought along the Libyans against the Italian aggressors. It was during that time that he met and dealt with the famous Libyan activist and fighter, Umar alMokhtar.

He even arranged for getting aid from neighboring countries to support the Libyans’ fight for freedom.

Expectedly, Kund was then persecuted. He spent a month in Egyptian prison, where he was trying to ally support for the Libyan resistance.

Back in Denmark Knud decided to publish his accounts depicting the horrific Italian crimes- it was his acclaimed work the “Desert Encounter”. Soon after it hit the bookstores, the book became bestselling and turned out quite famous and scored incredible success in the U.S. and across European states, which triggered the anger of the Italians.

Kund then went to Amman, where his life was under continuous threat. One day, In October 1931, Holmboe took a camel and went on a trip to Aqaba. Awaiting his an entry permit, Knud left on his camel towards the Saudiarab border. He spent one night at what is believed to be Haql oasis. There, he met with a local Bedouin tribe, said to work for Italian officers in the area.

Knud then continued his travel alone, before he was attacked on the road between al-Haql and Humayda, and captured. But he managed to escape and swam till be became too tired to carry on and save his life.

Knud was later found by the Bedouins, who shot him dead and buried his body on the shore.

Knud died, but his legacy remains immortal, inspiring nations and individuals to fight for justice and freedom, without compromising, and without fear of a government or an individual.

Knud feared nobody but Allah, he fought with his Muslim brothers to help them cain their usurped freedom. He raised the flag of truth and freedom without a fear for his life. He lived courageously, and died honorably, as a martyr of freedom of expression.

Hope to fulfill his legacy coupled with strong belief in his mission, together with deep faith is what helped Holmboe carry on the fight, from one land to the other, till his final destination where he died.

Perhaps a good way of ending this article about Knud Holmboe is to mention one of his quotes:

“Deep down within themselves the peoples of the East and the West are alike. They are two branches of the same tree. And when man, regardless of whence he comes, seeks deep in his heart, he will feel the longing for the root of the tree.”

May your soul rest in peace Knud, and may your legacy remain vivid in the hearts of humanity.

More about Knud’s Life can be found on his official website Here

Wassalaam,

Maha Youssuf

Posted on: 20- May- 2011