An image of a Muslim woman walking past a victim of the London terror attack has been “misappropriated”, according to the photographer who took it.
The image shows a woman wearing a hijab and looking at her phone while passing an injured person on Westminster Bridge. It was widely republished by the media and shared on anti-Islam blogs and social media as evidence that she – and by extension, the Muslim community – lacked concern for the suffering.
However, the photographer who took the image today said it had been misused. Speaking to Australia’s ABC, London-based Jamie Lorriman who took a series of images at the scene, said the woman looked distressed and distraught, and was not ignoring the scene, as many commenters have suggested.
“The people who took on that picture are being rather selective,” he said. "In the other picture in the sequence she looks truly distraught ... personally I think she looks distressed in both pictures. It’s wrong it’s been misappropriated in that way.”
Lorriman said he wouldn’t want to suggest for certain what was going through the woman’s mind – and that people who weren’t there shouldn’t either. "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,” he said.
"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."
Speaking to The Guardian, Lorriman also said he believed there were more people coming to the woman’s defence than criticising her. “People going, ‘you weren’t there, you didn’t see it, you’ve no idea what that woman’s thinking, so how can you possibly assume that she’s just casually on her phone?’”
He added: “It’s good to see that that seems to be the overwhelming response to the messages that are being put out there by certain people.”
The woman pictured has since contacted the organisation TellMAMA, which chronicles attacks against Muslims in the UK, voicing her distress at being the subject of such attention. In a post on its website, the organisation said the wide circulation of the image “has undermined the confidence of an innocent young woman who was also caught up in the melee after the attacks.
“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,” the organisation said.
It said the images “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 young woman has, in some people’s eyes, “become the focal point after a major terrorist incident”, was perverse and is “[feeding] the cycle of hatred against Muslims”.