The Superiority of Non-Violent Resistance
The viral photo showing a young woman, Saffiyah Khan, smiling at an enraged English Defence League (EDL) protester that has been shared thousands of times on social media is recognised “as a symbol of Birmingham’s defiance in the face of the far right,” reports Frances Perraudin for The Guardian.
Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted:
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 pic.twitter.com/bu96ALQsOL
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) April 8, 2017
The EDL demonstration took place last Saturday (April 8th) in Birmingham city centre and was organised by the EDL movement which describes the Islamic religion as “an authoritarian, political doctrine which imposes itself by force.” The Birmingham local said that the photo was captured when she defended a woman wearing a hijab, who had become surrounded by EDL protesters after she confronted them and called them racists.
Khan said, “When I realised that nothing was being done [by police] and she was being surrounded 360, that’s when I came in as well.” Furthermore, when asked about her recent ‘fame’ and praise on social media, Khan told Vice, “My aim right now is to just use [her online exposure] as a platform to do anything I can to reduce racism and Islamophobia in the UK.”
This act of defiance sends a powerful message to the alt-right and racist groups alike, as it depicts the simple nature of standing up to regressive acts and conservative modes of thinking. Saffiyah’s unadulterated reaction to the incensed EDL supporter reminds us that non-violent resistance is often superior to the oppressive and forceful nature of protests that have taken the world by storm. Non-violent movements and peaceful demonstrations maintain the power to unite, to re-establish solidarity and stand up for significant causes that affect aspects of our shared humanity.
Although the history books report on the numerous coups, rebellions and wars, it is the movements that employ non-violent resistance and support civil disobedience that gather people together and produce lasting results in unstable times.
In her book, Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth writes “For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens…these efforts help separate regimes from their main sources of power and produce remarkable results.”
Saffiyah has kickstarted a movement, by proving that you can get your point across without the use of violent means and quietly face the far-right hatred and attitudes that pose threats to equality, acceptance and progression.
A smile has never been so outspoken.
The power of a smile gives power to the people.