The Muslim woman who was photographed walking past a victim of the London attack on Westminster Bridge while looking at her mobile phone last week has spoken out after being targeted with online hatred.
The unidentified woman was photographed just minutes after Khalid Masood drove a rental car into people on the bridge, killing three and injuring dozens more before fatally stabbing a police officer on the grounds of British Parliament.
The woman was wearing a long coat, a hijab and a bag over her shoulder as she looked at her mobile phone while walking past a victim who was surrounded by other people.
The image, captured by photojournalist Jamie Lorriman, was widely shared on social media with hateful comments and bigotry towards Muslims.
“Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone,” reads a tweet from Texas Lone Star.
Richard Spencer, a white nationalist from the so-called Alt-Right movement, tweeted the image along with “Walk on by…”
The photojournalist captured at least two images of the woman on the bridge at the time. Other photographers too captured citizens at the scene walking about while using their mobile phones.
Speaking with British newspaper The Guardian, Lorriman said he thought the images clearly showed the woman was distraught.
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“Looking back at the pictures now she looks visibly distraught in both pictures in my opinion,” he said. “She’s in the middle of an unfolding horrific scene … I think her expression to me says that she’s horrified by what she’s seen and she just needs to get out of the situation. We were all being told to clear the bridge at various stages, so it’s not unreasonable to think she’d been told to leave the bridge at some point just like everybody else.”
The woman issued a statement through Muslim advocacy group TellMAMA UK saying she was “shocked and totally dismayed” by the attention and the abuse she has suffered from “those who could not look beyond my attire.”
“I’m shocked and totally dismayed at how a picture of me is being circulated on social media,” the woman said in the statement. “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.”
The woman went on to explain her emotions at the time and thanked the photographer for speaking out about the image as well.
“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,” she said in the statement. “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.”