UK

Saffiyah Khan, Woman In Birmingham EDL March Photo, Tells Story Behind Viral Picture

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

10/04/2017 07:53 BST | Updated 11/04/2017 13:23 BST

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The young woman who gained instant fame over the weekend for an incredible photo of her staring down the leader of the English Defence League (EDL) has said she was “not scared in the slightest” during the tense confrontation.

Saffiyah Khan came to symbolise resistance to the rally, held in Birmingham on Saturday, after an image of her appearing to smile at Ian Crossland was shared thousands of times on social media.

Khan, who was born in the UK and is half-Pakistani, half-Bosnian, told the BBC she was “quite surprised” at the reaction to the photograph.

She also said she wasn’t part of any planned counter-demonstration and hed stepped in when members of the EDL surrounded another woman who had shouted “Islamophobe” at them.

She said: “A group of 25 quite big-looking EDL lads, they surrounded her.

“She was 360 surrounded... I stepped forward and identified myself as someone who supported her and contradicted them.

Another photo of the clash shows a policeman pushing down Crossland’s raised fist.

PA Wire/PA Images
A second picture of the confrontation.

But despite the obvious tension between the two people in the pictures, Khan told the Mirror she kept calm throughout.

She said: “(The EDL supporter) 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 didn’t realise how many people would be so supportive, so it was worth it.”

West Midlands Police said two people, thought to be counter-protesters, had been arrested for alleged breaches of the peace.

Birmingham Central Mosque held a “best of British” tea party to counter the demo.

PA Wire/PA Images

The leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on Birmingham City Council had urged people to go about their business as usual during the EDL protest on Saturday.

A statement issued by the city council on behalf of party group leaders John Clancy, Robert Alden and Jon Hunt said: “The English Defence League is not welcome in Birmingham. They will never be welcome in Birmingham.