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Time for an ethnic face on our money?

Time for an ethnic face on our money?

Categories: Latest News

Thursday October 18 2018

Since September 2016, Winston Churchill, Jane Austen and JMW Turner have all featured on new notes from the Bank of England, and now a new £50 note is being discussed with the face unknown at present. In a climate where intersectionality is increasingly important, the new face of the note should be representative of contemporary British society, in all of its diversity.

Social activist Zahra Zaidi created the change.org petition campaigning for Noor Inayat Khan to become the new face of the £50 note. The campaign is supported by Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, MP, historian Dan Snow, and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Ms Zaidi states that none of the previous notes have featured an ethnic minority woman and “in this age, where we see a rise in antisemitism, 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… 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”.

Noor Inayat Khan was a British Indian Muslim woman who fought in World War II. She joined the Women’s Auxillary Air Force and was later recruited to join the French section of the Special Operations Executive.

Khan received special training as a wireless operator in occupied territory and was the first female radio operator to be sent into Nazi-occupied France in 1943. She ran a spy ring in Paris to infiltrate the Nazis by whom she was captured, imprisoned and tortured.

As a prisoner, with her hands and feet shackled, Khan still refused to give any information that would harm the progress of the allies. She was transferred to Dachau concentration camp in Germany and executed on September 13 1944.

Khan’s bravery has been recognised by being awarded posthumously the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre, additionally, a memorial bust commemorating Khan’s sacrifice can be found in Bloomsbury, it is the first stand-alone memorial to an Asian woman.

It is also an acknowledgement to the 2.5 million individuals from India who formed the biggest volunteer army in both world wars, many of which were Muslim. In a letter to President Roosevelt in 1942, Churchill wrote “we must not on any account break with the Moselems, who represent a hundred million people, and the main army elements on which we must rely for the immediate fighting”.

MEND notes that it is important for the contributions that Muslims, past and present, have made to British society to be recognised and wholeheartedly supports the campaign and commends the bravery of Khan and all others who have contributed to our society.


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