10 Apr 2017

Saffiyah Khan fronts up to far right leader

From Checkpoint, 5:53 pm on 10 April 2017

An image of Saffiyah Khan smiling at the head of the far-right Islamaphobic English Defence League at a rally in Birmingham, UK, went viral over the weekend.

Ms Khan told Checkpoint with John Campbell she just wanted to help another person out: a woman in a head scarf or hijab, who shouted "racists" at the EDL protestors, and suddenly found herself surrounded by them.

She tried to move through the crowd to stand with the woman, and found herself face-to-face with the man in the picture.

She was smiling not to provoke him, but to keep herself calm, she said.

"Sometimes when you're trying to stay calm and make sure you stay in the right frame of mind to be having discussions and things like that... then you don't do anything that could incriminate you for any reason, or suggest that you have done something criminal."

She had her own theory as to why the photo had caught so much attention.

"I think when you see a face and you see it's a girl, and you see things like that, everything starts to make more sense, people can identify with it as well."

Gaining international attention was not on her mind at the protest, but she had been inundated with messages of support from people around the world.

"The best responses have been people who have gotten in touch with me and told me their own personal stories and how it's affected them.

"I've had a lot of stories about daughters being affected and seeing me as a role model now, which I really never expected to happen... I've had some amazing responses."