Defiant woman who stared down EDL protester: ‘I was there was because I am a Brummie’

Saffiyah Khan gives a bemused smile to Ian Crossland, leader of the English Defence League, during a protest on Saturday

A Birmingham woman who was photographed facing off against an EDL member during a protest by the far right group on Saturday has told the Daily Mirror she "was not scared in the slightest" during the confrontation.

The picture, taken by Press Association photographer Joe Giddens, has gone viral since Saturday afternoon, being shared thousands of times on social media.

Among those who posted it on Twitter was Birmingham MP Jess Phillips, who said: "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."

The woman is Saffiyah Khan, who told the Mirror she became caught in a stand off with the man – Ian Crossland, leader of the EDL – when she stepped in to help a "terrified"-looking Muslim woman who had been surrounded by protesters.

"The reason I was there was because I am a Brummie," she said. "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 was at that point that the EDL protesters turned on Ms Khan, and she was stood facing Ian Crossland.

"I just stood there," she said. "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. 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."

As the EDL march got underway on Saturday, one Birmingham mosque hit back by throwing a Best of British tea party.

Muhammed Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said ahead of the event: “We would love the focus of Saturday to be our tea party rather than the protests going on elsewhere.

“Our mosque is open to all and we thought the best response to the demonstrations would be to invite our neighbours round for a cup of tea.”

Watch | Far-right groups march in London 01:18

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