A woman in a hijab who was photographed on Westminster Bridge immediately after the attack became the victim of xenophobic and Islamophobic hate.
In the aftermath of the attack on the British parliament and Westminster Bridge by Kent-born Khalid Masood, the fears of the far-right have been stirred once again and have found expression on social media.
The unfortunate recipient of this hate is one Muslim woman pictured on the Westminster Bridge immediately after the attack, in a photograph taken Jamie Lorriman. In the photo, the woman is seen on her phone, visibly distraught, while a man lies injured on the ground just behind her, surrounded by bystanders. The Guardian writes that the image of the woman became an Islamophobic meme after it was circulated by anti-Islam blogs, highlighting the woman’s alleged ‘lack of concern’.
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The narrative that was construed around the woman in the picture was that she was completely unaffected by the distress around her and “casually” walked by, checking her phone. According to the Washington Post, some others on the internet have suggested that she did not care that a man was dying next to her, while others suggested that she was happy about the attack.
Lorriman has since come to to the woman’s defence and said that the photo was in a series that clearly shows she was distress. He told the Guardian, “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 also made a statement.
“I’m shocked and totally dismayed at how a picture of me is being circulated on social media,” she said. “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.”
She also thanked Lorriman for defending her and said that she had tried to speak to other witnesses to find out what was happening before calling her family to tell them she was safe.
As the Washington Post report shows, this is not the first instance where an innocent person has been targeted by the far-right to fan Islamophobia and fear, irrespective of the toll it takes on the lives it blemishes. Anas Modamani, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee who took a selfie with Angela Merkel – a photo that was manipulated and circulated online, labelling him as a terrorist after the Brussels attack.
In another instance, Veerender Jubbal, a Sikh Canadian, was photoshopped to look like a suicide bomber with a vest and a Quran, and was named as one of the terrorists accused of the Paris attacks by a Spanish paper after the manipulated picture went viral on social media.