NEWS
12/07/2018 14:43 BST | Updated 12/07/2018 15:18 BST

Saffiyah Khan Urges People To Show Donald Trump He Is Not Welcome

'I’d much rather see communities rise up than he be banned.'

A teenager who shot to fame when a photo of her standing up to a far-right group went viral is urging people to show Donald Trump he is not welcome in the UK.

Saffiyah Khan, who stared down EDL leader Ian Crossland in defence of a Muslim woman at a rally in Birmingham last year, is backing those protesting peacefully during the US president’s controversial visit.

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Saffiyah Khan facing down EDL protester Ian Crossland in Birmingham in April 2017

Fifteen months after the photo was taken, we are catching up with her while she’s working a shift for Off The Scale - a Birmingham-based vintage clothing non-profit social enterprise.

The 19-year-old tells HuffPost UK: “I don’t think you can ban Trump because it’s an issue with freedom of speech and at the end of the day he is the voted-in president. 

“I think that he should be allowed to come in the same way that the EDL should be allowed to march.

“It’s the community’s responsibility to prove that he’s not welcome and that can be done in protests or so many different ways - I mean they are doing the Trump blimp - that’s a great idea - make him look really silly.”

JONATHAN HIPKISS/EXPOSURE PHOTOS
Saffiyah Khan in front of the Off The Scale vintage bus

While many called for Trump to be banned from visiting the UK as a direct reaction to his own travel bans in the US, the 5ft 11.5ins model and photographer believes barring people is not the way forward. 

“So much more could be done before people are banning other people,” she adds. 

“I mean maybe he does deserve to be banned, but I’d much rather see communities rise up and have a reason to rise up than he just be banned, ticked off the list and that be the end of it.” 

However, half-Bosnian, half-Pakistani Khan admits she “absolutely loves” Sheffield’s Lord Mayor Magid Magid, who recently “banned” Trump from his city and backed anti-Trump demos in a tweet.

“That guy from Sheffield - the mayor of Sheffield right now is hilarious I absolutely love him,” she says.

“I think the mayor role is so outdated in most areas where they don’t do very much apart from wear their chains, wear their bling and kind of walk down the street with a big procession every couple of weeks so I think he’s great.

“I might consider being mayor if I get some chains, but I don’t know about the rest.”

Khan is also calling on the national media to counteract an infamous report by the news channel favoured by Trump - Fox News - about her home city; Birmingham. 

In January 2015, Steve Emerson, who claimed to be a “terrorism expert” told Fox the city was a “Muslim-only city”.

Khan believes Brummies are “still feeling the wounds” of the factually-incorrect report: “I think Birmingham gets overlooked [by the national media] really really badly.”

JONATHAN HIPKISS/EXPOSURE PHOTOS
Saffiyah Khan, 15 months after a photo of her standing up to the EDL went viral

The teen is not alone in the way she feels; 48% of Brummies think their city is represented badly in the national media, a survey conducted for the HuffPost Listens project revealed earlier this month.

“A story that the national media should be paying attention to is definitely something  to directly counteract what was said by Fox News, even though it was more than a year ago, which Birmingham is still feeling the wounds of.

“That we’re a no-go zone for whites - there’s no-go zones - there’s like terrorist hot spots and Small Heath is down the road, it’s about a five minute drive away and I could wear this there and I wouldn’t get shouted at and no one would harass me,” she adds, referring to her vest-top outfit.

JONATHAN HIPKISS/EXPOSURE PHOTOS
'I could wear this there and I wouldn’t get shouted at and no one would harass me,' says Saffiyah Khan

“Then you had Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding - two absolute idiots - there as well and she walks and she touches all the Qurans and says ‘all these are terrorist books’ and I just thought it was the funniest piece of media I have ever seen in my life, because she couldn’t stop touching them all and it got really weird.”

The latter incident saw far right group Britain First’s leader Golding and deputy leader Fransen ‘invade’ a Muslim bookshop in Birmingham and accuse them of selling ‘extremist literature’ in July 2017.

Coincidentally, Trump infamously re-tweeted three anti-Islam inflammatory tweets by Fransen last November.

In March this year, Fransen and Golding were jailed for hate crimes in relation to a separate incident in Kent. 

JONATHAN HIPKISS/EXPOSURE PHOTOS
'Birmingham is still feeling the wounds' of Fox News's story, says Saffiyah Khan

“It would be really good to see something done by a big UK-based news organisation to prove exactly what Birmingham is like, so we don’t get to the Jayda Fransens, the National Fronts and [have] it trickle down.” Khan says.

Khan was hailed a hero for her bravery and lauded a symbol of resistance after photos of her, then aged 18, taken by Press Association photographer Joe Giddens were shared thousands of times on social media. 

PA Archive/PA Images
Saffiyah, then 18, confronting the EDL in Birmingham

After stepping in to defend Muslim woman Saira Zafar in April 2017, she became an overnight sensation who has worked closely with the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.

She is still stopped in the street by people who recognise her.

PA Archive/PA Images
Saffiyah Khan taking part in Jeremy Corbyn's General Election rally in Birmingham

But she still doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of the now-iconic photo and seems more keen to crack on with the various social action projects she is involved with, as well as her career in modelling and photography.

One non-profit social enterprise is Off The Scale. This interview takes place inside its 1981 Leyland Leopard, which tours UK universities and events in a bid to break down the stigma of talking about mental health.

Khan, who calls Off The Scale, run by Eddie and Gail O’Callaghan, “my baby” says: “Since the photo my life has changed in some ways. I was working here before then and I’m still working here now.”

JONATHAN HIPKISS/EXPOSURE PHOTOS
'It's my baby', Saffiyah says ofOff The Scale

Of the famous snap, she says: “You wouldn’t have been able to predict it or justify it for anyone doing anything when a picture is taken that randomly. It was something. It was representative of me, I think because it was something I have always had an interest in and I would do with or without cameras there.”

While the artist, who doesn’t like to be called ‘an activist’, says she would consider a career in politics, she is sticking to art and photography for now as “you can always make it political.”

“I think if I went just politics I think I’d die of boredom.”

A post shared by saffiyah khan (@saffiyah__khan) on

Explaining her stance on activism, she continues: “Activist is a really weird word because it is just someone that does things about things they’re interested in, in society.

“I don’t really know what separates someone that cares a little less and someone that cares a little more and is active about it. I’d rather be called active than an activist.

“I did a TED talk on this because it really got under my skin. So I think calling me an activist...has strange connotations attached to it, which is weird because it is an intrinsically good word, a wholesome word.

“We should just be shunning people that do nothing.”