“Devastated” Muslim witness of Westminster attack forced to respond to Islamophobic trolls

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Nicola Rachel Colyer
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The UK was sent into shock this week when on Wednesday (22 March), Khalid Masood ploughed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London before stabbing a police officer at the Houses of Parliament, killing four people and injuring at least 50 others.

While the horrific events have resulted in many people coming together in a show of strength and resilience, others have taken to Twitter to spread further hatred and intolerance online.

Now one young Muslim woman has been forced to respond after an innocent image of her walking at the location of the attack has been used as a way of spewing further racial and religious abuse, saying she is “shocked”, “dismayed” and “devastated”.

The unnamed woman is pictured wearing a hijab with a grey coat and trainers as she walks past an injured individual. The victim lies on the pavement surrounded by seven other individuals, some of whom are on the phone and offering assistance. The woman has her hand held to her face and appears visibly shocked as she glances down at a mobile phone in her hand.

One Twitter user posted the image online with the caption: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam”. 

Another stated: “A picture says 1,000 words. London terrorist attack, and this Muslim woman can't be bothered to put down her phone.#ReligionOfPeace #MAGA”

The slew of abuse obviously sparked outrage online, with many users coming to the woman’s defence and calling out the lack of context to the image. Some have pointed out that other members of the public, including a white male, were photographed passing the scene in the same manner but have not been subjected to such abuse, highlighting the racial and religious sentiment behind the tweets.

Both the freelance photographer who captured the image and the woman pictured have now responded, with the woman requesting via Tell MAMA – a project which provides a means for such incidents to be reported, recorded and analysed – that media outlets also stop reproducing the image.

While the woman remains unnamed, she has released the following statement:

“I’m shocked and totally dismayed at how a picture of me is being circulated on social media.

“To those individuals who have interpreted and commented on what my thoughts were in that horrific and distressful moment, I would like to say not only have I been devastated by witnessing the aftermath of a shocking and numbing terror attack, I’ve also had to deal with the shock of finding my picture plastered all over social media by those who could not look beyond my attire, who draw conclusions based on hate and xenophobia.

“My thoughts at that moment were one of sadness, fear, and concern. What the image does not show is that I had talked to other witnesses to try and find out what was happening, to see if I could be of any help, even though enough people were at the scene tending to the victims. I then decided to call my family to say that I was fine and was making my way home from work, assisting a lady along the way by helping her get to Waterloo station.

“My thoughts go out to all the victims and their families. I would like to thank Jamie Lorriman, the photographer who took the picture, for speaking to the media in my defence.”

Speaking to MailOnline, the photographer, Jamie Lorriman, explained that he was underneath Westminster Bridge at the time of the attack and began photographing at the scene just moments later. 

Lorriman said: “I saw dozens of people walk past and the woman on the phone had just come from the part of the bridge where most of the victims were struck.

“That is why she clearly looks mortified and it is obvious that she is in shock. The woman would have seen people under buses – she had just walked past the worst of it.

“She wasn't the only one walking past injured people and it looked like she just wanted to get off the bridge as quickly as possible.”

He went on to say that “the people who took on that picture are being rather selective.

"To assume she was ignoring someone is impossible to know, the look on the woman's face, she's horrified, she's in the middle of a traumatic situation.”

Tell MAMA has highlighted the impact of the abuse directed at the young woman, stating that the situation “has undermined the confidence of an innocent young woman who was also caught up in the melee after the attacks.

“The reality is that the victim has informed us of her shock having seen and walked into the incident and her further distress on having her pictures circulated by US and UK based anti-Muslim haters.

“In fact, pictures were also circulated of her with Nazi Swastikas around her arms, thereby playing to anti-Muslim tropes of all Muslims being extremists and potential killers.”

Images: iStock


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Nicola Rachel Colyer

Nicola Colyer is a freelance writer and ex-corporate girl. A francophile and relapsing sugar-free graduate, she'll often be found seeking out the best places for brunch or struggling to choose between a green juice and a G&T.