16th October 2018   •   article
Campaigners say put hero Noor Inayat Khan on UK's new £50 note

by Barfi Culture Team | @barfi_culture.
Image: Wikimedia
She was a Sufi who believed in non-violence and religious harmony, but she also volunteered in Britain's war effort to fight against fascism. She is the ideal candidate to be the face of Britain's new £50 note, says Zehra Zaidi.

She has started a petition and a campaign to get Khan on the note, as well as an annual day to commemorate her memory and the contribution of British Muslims to fight the Nazis.

The Bank of England announced this week it was redesigning the £50 note, after doing the same with £5, £10, and £20 notes. But apart from the Queen, author Jane Austen is the only woman whose face has appeared on banknotes.

The campaign is being supported by MP Tom Tugendhat, who said: "The new £50 could have anyone on it, I’m backing Noor Inayat Khan. She volunteered for SOE, served bravely as an agent in occupied Europe, was eventually captured and murdered. A Muslim, a woman, a hero of WW2."

The campaign is backed by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and hate-monitoring group Tell MAMA.

Khan's background

Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow in 1914 to an Indian father and an American mother. As World War 2 broke out, she joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and became the first female radio operator sent into France in 1943.

For three months, she single-handedly ran a cell of spies across Paris to infiltrate the Nazis. Noor’s actions saved the lives of many people in Europe. She was eventually captured by the Nazis and tortured.

Noor Inayat Khan was awarded military honours by France and Britain: the Croix De Guerre and the George Cross. A memorial sculpture of Khan was unveiled in 2012.

Why on a £50 note?

Zehra Zaidi writes on her petition: "Noor's story resonates to this day. We see rising populism and division across Europe. We see an increase in antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred and intolerance. Never has there been more of a need to bring communities together."

"Let us recognise the positive contributions of Muslims in this country and this one remarkable woman in particular. She was a Sufi who believed in non-violence and religious harmony. However, she volunteered to be on the front line because she believed in the fight against fascism."

She says it would also tell a wider story about the role of Indian and Commonwealth soldiers.

"Two and a half million Indian soldiers volunteered in World War 2. It was the largest volunteer army in history and suffered the highest casualties. It is important we continue to recognise their contribution, and indeed that of other Commonwealth soldiers."

Sign the petition from here
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