Saffiyah Khan defies an angry EDL with a smile


Saffiyah Khan was pictured smiling down at Ian Crossland, the leader of the extreme far-right party, after members of the English Defence League reportedly threatened Saira Zafar, who was wearing a hijab.

The image, which has gone viral on social media, was captured by Press Association photographer Joe Giddens during a demonstration by the far-right group in Birmingham city centre on Saturday.

It shows an EDL protester Ian Crossland staring into the eyes of the young woman, who is looking back at him unfazed with a smirk.

Khan said in a Radio New Zealand interview:

She was quite a small woman. When I realised that nothing was being done [by police] and she was being surrounded 360, that's when I came in as well."

She described the man who confronted her as "an angry man having a bit of a rant".

There was a heavy police presence resulting in the arrest of two counter-protesters on allegations of breaches of the peace.

The EDL appeared angered by the photograph, with their leader Ian Crossland saying:

she's lucky she got any teeth left".

Though the two women had never met before, Ms Khan said when she saw that Ms Zafar was completely surrounded by men, she felt she had to step in.

Since then, the two women have been able to formally meet during which Zafar expressed her gratitude:

I feel proud to be from a place that rejects far right hatred and Saffiyah is a beacon of that hope,"

The image is being hailed as a symbol of Birmingham's defiance in the face of the far right.

Khan has been surprised by the resonance that the image has had with people on social media. she said.

I've heard stories [of daughters] who have been affected, who see me a role model which I really never expected,"

Loren Williams