Asian woman who smiled defiantly at EDL protester: 'I wasn't scared in the slightest'

Anthony Pearce
This is of Saffiyah Khan, from Birmingham, has been hailed as iconic (PA)
This is of Saffiyah Khan, from Birmingham, has been hailed as iconic (PA)

A woman who was pictured staring down the English Defence League (EDL) leader in a now-viral image has denied she was interrupting a minute’s silence for terror victims.

Saffiyah Khan said she felt compelled to step in when Ian Crossland and more than 20 of his far-right supporters confronted a Muslim woman during a march in Birmingham.

Khan, who was there to offer support to those abused during the march on Saturday, then found herself caught in a stand-off with Crossland — but said she “was not scared in the slightest”.

In the iconic image she is seen stood with hands in her pocket, smiling and looking down at an angry Crossland.

The EDL leader later took to Facebook to claim she had interrupted a minute’s silence for victims of the recent terror attacks and said she was “lucky she got any teeth left”.

He posted on Facebook: “The dirty unwashed left wing scrubber was grinning because she managed to disrupt a demo.

“And the disrespectful witch chose the minutes [sic] silence for the victims of the terror attack in Stockholm and Westminster.”

MORE: Mixed global reaction to Trump’s Syria air strikes
MORE: Is this the end of the Farage/Trump bromance? UKIP MEP slams US President for Syria attack

She said: “There is no evidence supporting that I interrupted a minute’s silence. Everyone that was there with me can confirm that as well as video evidence.

“People that know me can vouch for me that if someone was holding a minute’s silence my respect for it would not be swayed because of any political party. It is just a smear [by Crossland].

“I’m very touched by his response but I really hope I don’t meet him again,” she said. “If you look on his Facebook he makes various rape jokes and jokes about paedophiles.

“So what he said is something I’m taking with a pinch of salt.”

Saffiyah, who was born in the UK and is half-Pakistani, half-Bosnian, was not part of an organised counter-protest against the EDL march in Birmingham city centre.

The picture has been shared thousands of times across social media by celebrities and politicians.

Local MP Jess Phillips wrote: “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”

Khan said: “The reason I was there was because I am a Brummie. This was happening in Birmingham and it felt right. I am not a political activist.

“I wasn’t in a confrontational role, I wanted to keep a low profile.

“I was there with a few friends to look after people — because Muslims and people of colour are often abused.

“Nothing was really happening until a woman in a headscarf started shouting ‘racist’.

In a second image, Saffiyah Khan was seen smiling at the EDL leader (PA)
In a second image, Saffiyah Khan was seen smiling at the EDL leader (PA)

“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.

“I couldn’t understand what was being said though to be honest, it was all very mumbled.

“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 was just holding out. Then I was just pulled out of there, I wasn’t arrested or charged.

“I have lost my anonymity because of the picture, but on balance it was worth it.

EDL members and anti-fascist protestors clash (PA)
EDL members and anti-fascist protestors clash (PA)

“I have probably been profiled by them now and I have to take one for the team. I didn’t realise how many people would be so supportive, so it was worth it.”

David Lammy MP said: “So much love for this. Second photo of Saffiyah Khan staring down the EDL with a smile is even better. Solidarity, sister”

Saffiyah added: “I have been trying to respond to most of the messages I have been getting.

“I haven’t had a single negative message.

“I think the best messages I have received have been from people who have told me they had daughters who were looking up to me and I didn’t realised a picture could have that effect.

“I think I’ve got an excellent platform now. I am using it at the moment with certain groups who have been interested in involving me with what they are doing.

“It is still in the process, they are groups that are more focused on community, I am hoping to help them.”