The anti-fascist smile

In this era, which will be defined by the rise of global Islamist terrorist attacks and the far-right/ alt-right/ whatever right you’re having yourself, it may be tempting to lose some faith in humanity.

Saffiyah Kahn, who confronted a so-called leader of the English Defence League, restored some of that faith this week.

The image of her standing fearlessly in front of an EDL member has gone viral in the days since it was first posted.

Her coolness in the face of a far-right racist has earned her fame online and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

And that is what was most reassuring.C9CsA1lXgAAcDz-

Though it’s true that people live in online bubbles, surrounded by people they already agree with, a simple search of Saffiyah Kahn on Twitter shows that the reaction has been almost exclusively celebratory.

There are a few odd, bald Englishmen, horribly decorated in union flag tattoos, who seem to have no time for a powerful image like this. But they’re a tiny minority who aren’t taken very seriously – not because they look like thugs – but because of their nonsensical rhetoric about foreigners and the evil Left.

Of course, these racists in England have racist friends and they can share their hatred around little circles on Facebook. But Twitter is where public opinion can be gauged and it is not an understatement to say that she has become a hero online.

It will be short-lived, as these things are, but it has restored my faith in the values of the British public.

The EDL has very little support in Britain, and this picture showed the ease with which these Nazis can be defeated.

The EDL had around fifty people at their demonstration in Birmingham, carrying English flags and Union flags. Anti-fascist organisations outnumbered them. There is usually an Anfti-fa presence at EDL/ Britain First and SDL (Scotland’s equivalent) demos.

Another angle of Saffiyah confronting the EDL man

Since Saffiyah became famous online accidentally, she has been interviewed by the BBC.

“Sometimes it’s more important to smile than to shout.. it’s a more powerful message some of the time,” she said.

“His aggression can be seen through the picture. I didn’t say much to him and I can’t exactly remember what he was saying to me but I think the picture kind of sums it up because his finger is in my face.”

The EDL have tried to suggest that Saffiyah was interrupting a minute’s silence in a desperate response to the online reaction.

“The fact of the matter is, and the video evidence shows it aswell, that there wasn’t a minute’s silence while I was there. It’s an attempt at smearing because the situation is in my favour,” she added.

But Saffiyah is not surprised by the attention the picture has received, understanding why so many people have shared it in the past few days, but adding that it has been a strange experience.

“Very unintentionally, it became a very very powerful picture. It instills a hope about communities and the power of the people who oppose the EDL.”

Though we may soon forget her name, it is doubtful that we will forget her face. Powerful images stick with us, and they will survive for a long time. They document this era and future generations will look back at Saffiyah.

In an age of alt-right dudes who wear pepe the frog badges and vote for things like trying to detach a country from a continent, pictures like these become more important.

Even though they don’t necessarily change the world, they can help create it and shape it.

Life imitates art, or so they say anyway.


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