Noor Inayat Khan On The New £50 Would Be The First Ethnic Minority On A UK Banknote

Rachel McGrath
Noor Inayat Khan

Second World War heroine Noor Inayat Khan could become the first ethnic minority featured on a British banknote, if a new campaign is successful.

Last week, The Treasury announced plans to redesign the £50 note ahead of issuing polymer versions of it, inviting members of the public to suggest whose face should appear.

Zehra Zaidi, who is behind the campaign, states her case for Khan – who was of Indian descent – on a change.org page she set up on Tuesday.

Describing Khan as someone who “fought for the freedoms that we have today”, Zehra writes: “In this age, when we see a rise in anti-semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and intolerance, it is important that we continue to build bridges and show positive contributions from Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities, not least one of World War Two’s almost forgotten heroes, a British Muslim woman.

“Her message of peace and religious harmony is equally as relevant today.”

She also points out that only one Bank of England note has ever featured a woman (Jane Austen), apart from the Queen.

The campaign is being backed by the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust, who successfully campaigned for a statue of Khan to be erected in 2012.

Khan’s family moved from Paris to the UK when world war two broke out and she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, before being recruited to the Special Operations Executive unit two years later.

She then became the first female radio operator to move into occupied France in 1943, working in Paris.

After running a cell agents across Europe she was arrested and executed by the Gestapo. Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949.

Other suggestions for the £50 note include Mary Seacole, a pioneering nurse and Crimean War hero, Professor Stephen Hawking and David Bowie. 

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