Saffiyah Khan meets woman she defended at EDL demo

Saira Zafar thanks woman who defied far-right demonstrators in Birmingham

‘Solidarity is so important’: Saffiyah Khan meets woman she stood up for at EDL demo – video

It was the photograph that went viral, an image of a young woman smiling serenely in the face of an irate member of the far-right English Defence League at a demonstration in Birmingham’s city centre.

It later emerged that Saffiyah Khan had intervened to defend another woman who was being shouted at by EDL demonstrators. On Monday, Khan and the woman she defended, Saira Zafar, met properly for the first time and the two proud Brummies hugged.

“I just want to say thanks a lot for your help and for stepping forward and supporting me in that situation,” said Zafar. “It did really mean a lot. And together we defeated the EDL, I would say, at that rally.”

Khan spent Monday dealing with calls from journalists and was sent tickets to see the Specials in May because she was wearing the band’s T-shirt in the photograph.

Zafar, 24, had been attending a counter demonstration “to show that [the EDL’s message] is not acceptable and that it will be countered” when she was cornered by the far-right protesters shouting abuse at her. She said: “They were saying, ‘You’re not English,’ ‘This is a Christian country, not your country,’ and ‘Go back to where you came from.’ I was alarmed and worried for my safety.”

Khan said the police were not responding, so she stepped in: “I wasn’t going to let someone who was speaking the truth and being replied to aggressively be put in that position. You didn’t look like you wanted to be there and I have an intrinsic problem with that.”

Zafar said: “At the time, I did appreciate the support. But I couldn’t see exactly who was around.”

“Absolutely, it was complete chaos,” said Khan. “Can you vouch for me as well that they were 360 [degrees] around you? They were closing in.” Zafar agreed, saying: “Yeah, there were so many of them.”

“There’s no excuse to be doing nothing really,” said Khan later. “Even if it just means calling the police and saying I just witnessed this. Even if there’s no violence … just reporting it to the police means it comes up on their stats and they can look at it all and start working on ways to combat it.”

EDL activists claimed on Twitter that scuffles broke out at the demonstration after counter-protesters shouting “Nazi scum” disrupted a silence being held at the rally for victims of terrorism.

Writing on Facebook, the EDL member in the picture, Ian Crossland, the group’s leader, described Khan as a “dirty unwashed leftwing scrubber”.

He added: “The disrespectful witch chose the minute’s silence for the victims of the terror attack in Stockholm and Westminster. She’s lucky she’s got any teeth left.”

Khan said there was video evidence that contradicted the EDL’s claim and that anyone who knows her knows she would not have done that.

Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s former leader, tweeted that the picture was embarrassing.

“OK, just had confirmed by a friend who was at EDL demo, this lady was defending a woman in a navy hijab as she said to the papers,” he wrote. “[And] I don’t care how many people don’t like me saying that, the truth is the truth. [And] the picture is embarrassing.”

Zafar said: “I was a little bit confused about what he said because, as far as I’m aware, he was completely supportive of the exact narrative that the EDL preach.”

“The picture definitely is embarrassing for the EDL,” added Khan. “Personally I don’t know how much I agree with him, but that statement is bang on.”
“There’s no need for anything like this,” said Zafar, reflecting on the past two days. “I’m sure we’re more than capable of living together, united despite our differences.

“You just have to walk into Birmingham city centre to see how diverse it is. People of different colours different religions. It’s an absolutely amazing city and such a beautiful city, and it’s nothing like the sort of message that the EDL came here to deliver.”

Source-theguardian.com

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