Why J.K. Rowling (And All Of Sweden) Is Gushing Over This Woman's Fearless Act

An inspiration to activists everywhere.

The rise of Islamophobia in Europe has made way for neo-Nazi groups to come out of the woodwork and spread racism and intolerance. Across the continent, laws are becoming more stringent as governments grapple with the unending refugee crisis, and far right groups are becoming stronger and louder in their politics. 

But if these extremists thought the time for their brand of hatred was ripe, they thought wrong. Neo-Nazi rallies have been consistently outnumbered by counter-protestors — just like this one in Borlänge, Sweden, on May 1. 

As neo-Nazis marched through the center of the traditionally liberal town, they were swamped by counter-protestors. And in just the right place at just the right time, one of them, activist Maria-Teresa "Tess" Asplund, jumped out from the crowd to directly confront the extremists. 

What ensued was a silent stare-down that was captured by photographer David Lagerlöf, resulting in a powerful symbol of resistance.

Since he tweeted out the photo on May 3, Lagerlöf's image has gone viral, favorited and shared by more than 4,000 people on social media. 

Even author J.K. Rowling tweeted the photo, showering high praise on Asplund.

Asplund told English-language Swedish paper The Local

I just thought: you shouldn't be here. Then one of them stared at me and I stared back. He didn't say anything and neither did I. Then the police came fairly quickly and took me away.

The image clearly struck a chord with many people on social media as something of an antidote to the rising intolerance towards minorities, especially Muslims, across the Western world. 

The recorded uptick in violence towards these groups in recent months — both in Europe and in the U.S. — isn't a mere coincidence. It's a direct result of groups and politicians espousing their extremist views against those already marginalized. 

Cover photo via David Cheskin-Pool/Getty Images.