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Why this picture of a smile went viral

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Saffiyah Khan faces down an EDL protester at a demonstration in Birmingham

Tensions in the US and the UK have been rising over the past few years, and acts of racism seem to be rising along with it, as people react in fear to the terrorist attacks that have happened across the world. This picture was taken at a protest held by the English Defence League in Birmingham over the weekend. On the right is Ian Crossland, an EDL supporter, and on the left is Saffiyah Khan, a bystander who stepped in to defend another woman after Crossland, and 20 other EDL supporters confronted the woman, who was wearing a hijab and had been shouting at them.

Saffiyah was annoyed that the police did nothing to protect the woman, and stepped in, only for the group to turn on her. She stayed calm and stood with her hand in her pocket, smiling calmly at Crossland, who at one stage screamed at her with his hand raised.

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Saffiyah told the Mirror, “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’. 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.”

While the EDL held this rally to further divide the UK, this image of defiance and unity became the message, which is the opposite of what they wanted to achieve. This photo proves that the loudest voice on the room, is not always the most powerful.

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