This British Woman Showed How To Calmly Stare Down Fascism

“I knew they were trying to provoke me, but I wasn’t going to be provoked.”

April 10, 2017


The English Defence League, a far-right protest movement, held a protest in Birmingham, England on April 8. The U.K.-based group stands against what they see as a rise in Islamism and Sharia Law in Britain. Their latest protest was a response to the Westminster attack in London last month. The man responsible for that attack, 52 year-old Khalid Masood, lived in Birmingham.

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During the protest a picture was taken of Saffiyah Khan, from Birmingham, confronting EDL leader Ian Crossland. A picture of their moment together has gone viral with thousands sharing photographer Joe Giddens's image.



Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Khan explained that she was defending a woman she saw being surrounded by demonstrators. "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 color at the demos and outside of it."

She added: "I went with the intent of showing support for anyone who was assaulted or harassed by them."

In a separate interview with the Birmingham Mail, Khan recalled how the moment played out. “Nothing was really happening until a woman in a headscarf started shouting ‘racist,’" she said. "About 20 to 25 EDL people ran over and surrounded her. She looked absolutely terrified. I still hung back and waited for the police to sort it out. I waited two or three minutes and but the police did nothing, so I decided to go and try and get her out of there.

“It all happened very quickly. She left, but then I was identified as anti-fascist. The group turned on me.

“Ian Crossland was poking his finger in my face, but I just stood there. I didn’t do anything, I wasn’t interested, that wasn’t my intention. But I wasn’t scared in the slightest. I stay pretty calm in these situations. I knew they were trying to provoke me, but I wasn’t going to be provoked.

“I have lost my anonymity because of the picture, but on balance it was worth it. I have probably been profiled by them now and I have to take one for the team."

Khan later told The Guardian that she was “quite surprised” by the reaction to the photo.

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This British Woman Showed How To Calmly Stare Down Fascism