At a rally in Birmingham, in the UK, organised by the far-right English Defence League, a woman stepped in to confront the leader of the group with a striking weapon. Pictured above, Saffiyah Khan stands face-to-face with EDL leader Ian Crossland, appearing to smile as he leans towards her. A second picture shows Crossland raising his hand, blocked by a policeman’s arm. And still, she smiles. 

It’s been shared thousands of times, and the picture has rapidly became a symbol of resistance — and total chill. 

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In an interview after the encounter, Khan told the BBC that she stepped in when she saw EDL members surrounding a Muslim woman who had shouted “Islamophobe” at the group. 

"I don't like seeing people getting ganged up on in my town," she said. "A group of 25 quite big-looking EDL lads, they surrounded her."

It was a threatening situation, but Khan told reporters she was unfazed by the tension. 

“I wasn’t scared in the slightest. I stay pretty calm in these situations,” she said. “I knew they were trying to provoke me, but I wasn’t going to be provoked.” 

From the reaction online, it’s clear who won the standoff. Born in the UK and half-Pakistani, half-Bosnian, Khan represents the diversity of Birmingham — fellow “brummies” were quick to celebrate her actions. 

Around 100 people attended the EDL rally, but their presence was outshone by Saffiyah and the residents who stood up to defend the peace and diversity of their city. To counter the demonstration, Birmingham Central Mosque gathered the community together in a show of real patriotism — with a tea party. 

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Demand Equity

This Woman Stared Down a Far-Right Racist With the Ultimate Act of Defiance

By Yosola Olorunshola