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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

MPs back campaign to put Muslim heroine on British bank note

Noor Inayat Khan served behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France

Noor Inayat Khan could be pictured on a British bank note
Noor Inayat Khan could be pictured on a British bank note

British politicians have thrown their weight behind a campaign to make a Muslim spy who resisted the Nazis the new face of the £50 note.

Aged just 29, Noor Inayat Khan was parachuted into occupied France to serve as a radio operator behind enemy lines during the Second World War. She helped run the Prosper network of resistance communications in Paris, an Special Operations Executive established by Winston Churchill in order to “set Europe ablaze”.

As mass arrests by the Gestapo stifled the allies’ communications networks across France, Khan refused to leave her French colleagues and single-handedly ran a cell of agents in Paris for 3 months. However, she was eventually betrayed and captured by the Nazis, eventually perishing in Dachau concentration camp.

Born to a wealthy American mother, and an Indian Muslim father in Moscow, the Sufi operative began her career as a children’s writer in Paris before joining the war effort. A bust of her was unveiled in London in 2012 by Princess Anne.

The campaign has gathered support from senior MPs including Nusrat Ghani, Transport and Maritime Minister, as well as Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

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Zehra Zaidi, who is helping lead the campaign, told The Telegraph: “Noor Inayat Khan was an inspirational and complex woman who was a Brit, a soldier, a writer, a Muslim, an Indian independence supporter, a Sufi, a fighter against fascism and a heroine to all. She navigated complex identities and has so much resonance in the world we live in today.”

Tom Tugendhat said: "She was murdered in Dachau concentration camp and posthumously awarded the George Cross for her extraordinary courage fighting evil.

"She must be pretty unusual if not absolutely unique - it's nothing to do with her race, religion or sex - this is a woman who had everything, who came from a life of great privilege.

“Her heritage would have made it very easy for her not to step up to the call of duty. She could have lived a very comfortable life, but put everything on the line before being murdered in Dachau.”