AROUND 100 Muslim women formed a human chain across Westminster Bridge on Sunday evening in a show of solidarity with the victims of the terror attack on the bridge last Wednesday that claimed four lives.
The quiet protest on Sunday 26th March, which was organised by the Women’s March, saw around 100 women hold hands and bow their heads in silence at 4pm for a five-minute silence.
On Wednesday, Khalid Masood drove his SUV along the same pavement where the women stood, killing three pedestrians before stabbing a policeman to death.
Dr Sarah Waseem, a clinical psychologist from Surrey, told Middle Eastern Eye that she attended the silent protest: "To show that Muslim women care about what's happening in the world. Too often people think that our men speak for us."
It was an emotional experience for her, she said, due to: "Reflecting on the enormity of what had happened on 22nd March and also on what it meant for others watching us – this line of Muslim women standing there in silence."
And while taking part in the act, and holding hands with other women, made her feel strong, Waseem said she was also apprehensive about any negative comments from passers-by.
"We felt strong but also [we] realised what our presence might evoke in others watching." But in the end, she said that there were no derogatory comments.
"It was really great. Some people were watching and taking photos." Malik, from Surrey, told Metro newspaper that: “As a visible Muslim I think it was important to show solidarity with the principles that we all hold dear, the principles of plurality, diversity and so on.”
Fariha Khan said: “The feeling of what happened here on Wednesday was really strong. We thought of the ordinary people who were here and were mown down, standing here like this, it was very overwhelming.”
"When an attack happens in London, it is an attack on me. It is an attack on all of us," Sarah Waseem, who attended the vigil, told the Huffington Post. "Islam totally condemns violence of any sort. This is abhorrent to us."
The event came after a photo of a woman wearing a hijab on Westminster Bridge went viral on social media. The unnamed woman was pictured passing a victim in the aftermath of Wednesday's attack. Some people criticised what they perceived as her indifferent attitude to what was happening around her.
But others, including the man who took the photo, said she looked very distressed; many commentators also noted that the attempt to analyse the woman in the photo was motivated by xenophobia.
"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 involved told Tell MAMA, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim attacks, after she made headlines around the world.
"My thoughts at that moment were of sadness, fear, and concern."