Featured image credit: Joe Giddens for PA
On Saturday, the far right English Defense League (EDL) held a protest in Birmingham in response to last month’s terror attack in Westminster. Like most events organised by the EDL, it attracted less people than a car boot sale on a freezing cold day, but the minor rabble who did make it down managed to muster up a bit of noise.
In one instance, this noise was directed at Saffiyah Khan, a Birmingham local who went to observe the protest. Over the weekend, this photo of Saffiyah emerged:
The image, taken by Joe Giddens, shows Saffiyah face to face with EDL leader Ian Crossland. As you can see, he looks like he’s about to spit venom and flip his lid, while Saffiyah is a vision of calm, flashing the man a contemptuous, confident smile. Basically, she looks badass and he, well, doesn’t.
Khan, who comes from a Muslim background, told Buzzfeed News why she went to the rally: ‘I ended up going to the EDL demo because there is a history of harassment and assault of Muslims, vulnerable members of the public, and people of colour at the demos and outside of it….I went with the intent of showing support for anyone who was assaulted or harassed by them.’
Khan says the picture came to be after she stepped in to defend a Muslim woman in a hijab – ‘a fellow Brummie’ – who had been surrounded by several EDL members. They soon turned their focus on to her. Speaking to the BBC, Khan said, ‘she wasn’t intimidated in the slightest’ and she did it because she doesn’t like ‘seeing people getting ganged up on in my town.’
The photo quickly went viral, as people of all backgrounds applauded Saffiyah’s smiling defiance in the face of hate. Birmingham MP Jess Phillips tweeted it with the caption: ‘Who looks like they have power here, the real Brummy on the left or the EDL who migrated for the day to our city and failed to assimilate’.
Soon many more were showing their support for the ‘real Brummy’:
Others, including Labour MP David Lammy, praised another photo from the scene, where Saffiyah beams even brighter as a policeman pushes away Crossland’s hand:
There’s no other way of putting it; a Brummie with a Muslim background who’s of Pakistani and Bosnian origin standing up to the far right makes us proud to be British.
As does the Birmingham Central Mosque’s decision to hold a ‘best of British’ tea party on the same day as the rally. Complete with Union Jack bunting and Victoria sponge, the event welcomed people of all backgrounds, promoting unity on a day when the EDL tried to preach division.
The Birmingham Mail reports that there were over 300 people at the tea party – a gathering three times larger than the EDL rally.