While observing a protest in Birmingham, Saffiyah Khan felt she needed to step in. A group of men from the far-right group English Defence League (EDL) reportedly surrounded a woman wearing a hijab who had spoken out against the far-right protesters. Seeing this, Khan stepped in closer, and the photo of her smiling at an EDL protester as he spoke quickly became a viral lesson in a good way to handle one's self and stand up for one another.
"I didn't start anything until I saw someone else being intimidated," she told British media website UNILAD. "I'm a Brummie [from Birmingham, England] so I didn't want anyone in my city feeling intimidated."
Khan further detailed how that moment came to be:
According to Khan, after she stepped in, some EDL protesters began speaking at her, including reported EDL leader Ian Crossman, and the viral photo was snapped. However, she told UNILAD she wasn't necessarily giving him the smirk it seemed like she was giving:
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 pic.twitter.com/bu96ALQsOL— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) April 8, 2017
The photo, which was taken by Press Association regional photographer Joe Giddens, earned a lot of praise, with tweets from around the United Kingdom and the world mentioning her calm demeanor in the face of hate. "This is simply the most perfect response to EDL hatred; calm, somewhat nonchalant, defiant, and smiling," wrote Jo Grady, a professor at the University of Leicester.
And while Khan said she was surprised by the viral response to the photo, she was even more surprised that some people were shocked at how she responded. "It might be surprising to understand that I wasn’t intimidated," Khan told UNILAD. "I think it says a lot about [the EDL] that a girl can not be intimidated by 30 of them standing around."
Khan's confidence shone in the photo, as she never backed down from staring at Crossman. And while it may not have been her intention, she has certainly served as an inspiration for many on how to handle hate and stand up for fellow human beings as well.