A man has described how he intervened in a racist attack on the London underground directed at a Muslim woman, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
In a Facebook status posted yesterday, Ashley Powys, 22, detailed how he was on the tube at Oxford Circus on Monday evening, and sat opposite a young woman, who was wearing a hijab.
The pair exchanged glances and a smile, but nothing else.
Soon after Powys sat down, a man in his 30s got on the same carriage and started to stare at the woman, before shouting “f***ing p*ki” at the woman.
“He got closer to her,” Powys recalls, “and was reeling off abuse calling her things like ‘r*g-he*ad’, ‘terrorist’, ‘scum,’ and saying that ‘her people’ murdered the victims of the Paris attacks this weekend.”
Powys then goes on to describe how he “automatically jumped up and had to physically push him away from her, as he was aggressively close and was clearly terrifying her.”
“He then luckily turned his attention onto me, calling me a "terrorist sympathiser", among other things,” says Powys.
Powys then sat down next to the young woman, and tried to comfort her.
“I asked her what her name was. She told me it was Yara,” he says.
“The man continued to shout abuse at her while I distracted her...all the while making sure I was a barrier between her and this guy, so he didn't have direct access to harm her.”
When Powys offered to remain on the train until the woman’s stop, he described how tears started running down her face because of what she called [his] 'tremendous kindness and bravery’.”
“I don't think that's true,” Powys says. “I just saw someone in need, and it was my human nature to do what I could.”
When Powys asked the woman if she receives that kind of abuse regularly, he was ‘shocked’ to hear that she does, and told her that “she should never have to feel afraid in her own country. And this *is* her country, and her city.”
Powys, who works at Regent Street’s Apple store, wrote in his post how shocked he was that nobody else stood up for Yara.
“What shocked me most about my journey. Is that not one other person on that crowded train stood up for Yara. They sat in silence and allowed that abuse to happen. That's the problem with our society. Silence is our biggest weakness. We need to start speaking up and defending each other,” he says.
“I love living in London because of the diversity of character and culture,” continues Powys, but when we twist that diversity as a "threat" or an "invasion" we're embarrassing ourselves and diminishing and insulting the cultures of others.”
Powys finished his post by saying:
“I want us to send a message to Islamic State, and any other group who inspire fear and hatred. I want us to send the message that what they destroy, we'll rebuild together. What lives they take, we'll remember together. And what people they target, we'll protect together.”
Ashley’s post has received an enormous number of positive comments. He told the Evening Standard that he never imagined his post would reach so many people, and that one girl even said his message had given her the confidence to go out wearing her hijab for the first time in six months.
The post was liked over 41,000 times and shared over 18,000 times.