The Muslim woman pictured on Westminster Bridge in the moments after the London attack has revealed she is “devastated” to have been thrust into the centre of a social media storm – and asked media outlets to stop publishing pictures of her.
The woman, who has not been named, was pictured holding one hand to her head and looking at her phone as she walked past one of terror attacker Khalid Masood’s victims being treated on the ground.
The image was then shared on social media by a man identifying as @SouthLoneStar, who claimed she seemed indifferent to the suffering around her.
His comments were quickly condemned – though they also drew thousands of retweets and numerous messages of support.
The image was then published in numerous mainstream media outlets, although Yahoo News UK has chosen not to publish it.
Now, the woman has contacted an anti-racism group, and urged the wider media to refrain from publishing the image – saying it has left her distraught by the reaction it has received.
She told TellMamaUK: “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”.
The support network, which also measures and analyses areas where abusive incidents take place, said the woman had contacted them directly.
TellMAMA wrote on their website that wide use of the image by the media “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 U.S. and U.K. 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.
TellMAMA added that the woman “has expressly asked that her picture not be used and be taken down” from media sites.
“The greater the exposure of the picture, the greater has been the harassment and the intimidation of this young Muslim female who found herself in the middle of a situation that affected the whole country.”
Jamie Lorriman, who took the controversial image, agreed that the woman has been treated unfairly.
The photographer told ABC News that the hijab-wearing woman was “distressed and horrified” by the events unfolding around her.
The freelancer, who was underneath Westminster Bridge when the attack took place, said: “In the other picture in the sequence she looks truly distraught … personally I think she looks distressed in both pictures.”
He added: “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.
“She probably just wanted to get off the bridge. I feel so sorry for the woman in the picture. If she’s seen this, she must feel awful.”
TellMAMA added: “This scenario shows how heated and charged the whole situation around Muslim communities has become where a young Muslim female has in the eyes of some, become the focal point after a major terrorist incident.
“This is not only perverse, it fetishes Muslims from being citizens and Londoners, into bestial characters, which feeds the cycle of hatred against Muslims.”