By James Rettig
Billy Bragg has been releasing one-off political tracks all year long, and today he’s put out a new one called “Saffiyah Smiles” that was inspired by a viral photo of Saffiyah Khan smiling while protesting an anti-immigrant demonstration in Birmingham last spring. Bragg provided some more context to NPR:
Following the shocking scenes of white supremacists marching through the streets of Charlottesville this past summer, my mind went back to an image of a young woman facing down a ranting fascist with nothing but a serene smile. Saffiyah Khan had been taking part in a counter demonstration against the neo-fascist English Defence League in Birmingham, England, in April this year when she saw a woman being surrounded by taunting EDL supporters.
Saria Zafar was targeted because she was wearing a hijab and when the police failed to intervene, Saffiyah stepped up and got in the face of the loudest aggressor, holding him at bay with nothing more than a smile until police eventually intervened. A press photographer (Joe Giddens) captured the moment and the picture went viral. Local Labour MP Jess Phillips memorably tweeted the image with the caption, ‘Who looks like they have the power here?’
Listen to the song below.