Sunshine, tea and a smile – Birmingham’s message of tolerance
Three photos to sum up how Birmingham responded to bigotry and ignorance this weekend. Proud of our city. pic.twitter.com/0OnmHsX60L
— LeaderofBirmingham (@BrumLeader) April 10, 2017
Birmingham looked its best in gloriously sunny warm weather over the weekend, but more importantly made a very public stand against intolerance which sent a message of defiance racing across the globe.
I’ve never been prouder of our city than I was on Saturday when brave Brummie Saffiyah Khan faced down the bigotry and hatred of the English Defence League armed with nothing more deadly than a radiant smile.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then the image of Saffiyah captures brilliantly the spirit of Birmingham over the years. Little wonder then that media across the world are reproducing such an evocative picture.
Saffiyah spoke for the whole city when she stood eyeball to eyeball with the leader of the EDL.
Extremism has no place in Birmingham which is proud to celebrate its rich diversity.
We are one Birmingham, one big community, and all other communities come after that.
Saffiyah isn’t a political activist, and that’s important. She was just an ordinary British Brummie going about her business on a Saturday who thought ‘no, I’m not going to be pushed off the street by loud-mouthed extremists’ and had the courage to do something about it.
While Saffiyah’s actions were spontaneous, the decision by the Birmingham Central Mosque to throw a Best of British tea party had the benefit of perfect planning and was a brilliant response to those that seek to divide us.
The chairman of the mosque put it with deadly British understatement: “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.”
Can there be a more symbolic sign of Britishness by getting together for a nice cup of tea? And in a nice twist in the city where the Balti was invented, tea was accompanied by home-made samosas.
As photographs taken at the mosque tea party demonstrate, this was an event that appealed to a huge cross-section of Brummies, regardless of ethnicity or faith – people who simply wanted to make a quiet but poignant stand against divisiveness and say, ‘Not in My Name’.
It was a multi-cultural event that the EDL could never understand. But that of course was the whole point.