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Woman In Hijab Steps In to Confront Anti-Semitic Man Ranting At Jewish Family On Subway

@scatatkins / Twitter

On Friday, a currently-unidentified anti-semitic man approached a Jewish family, unprompted, on the London Underground.

Upon catching sight of a father, son and his other children, all wearing their yarmulkes, the man approached the family and took out his Bible. He focused specifically on the father and son by reading loudly to them from the scriptures, focusing primarily on the “synagogue of Satan.”

His actions appeared particularly aggressive as he stood over the family and even leaned in over the son’s head for emphasis of certain scriptural passages.

Chris Atkins, a filmmaker and fellow passenger on the train, began filming on his phone right away when he saw the other man approach the family with his Bible out and ready.

Fortunately, Atkins wasn’t the only passenger paying attention, and a few others didn’t allow the harassment to go on for too long before attempting to do something about it.

One man who isn’t very visible in the video tried to talk the man down but was immediately met with verbal threats.

The man holding the Bible responded:

“You get out of my face or I’m going to smack you right in the nose. Back up from me.” 

A Muslim woman in a hijab, since identified as Asma Shuweikh, stepped forward next, trying to appeal to the man’s better nature. She wanted to help ground him, by reminding him that he was reprimanding children, and that perhaps public transportation wasn’t the best place to have this particular conversation.

Shuweikh approached the man and said:

“There’s children here.”

The man replied:

“Listen, these people are imposters, trying to claim our heritage.”

Shuweikh’s reply was inaudible, to which the man replied: 

“Don’t you care about your people?”

The video has since gone viral, with more than 26 thousand retweets, 42 thousand likes, and coverage on news channels everywhere.

You can view the video here:

After the video went viral, Shuweikh was contacted for an interview with Sky News. She shared how her main concern the whole time had been how violent things might get if someone didn’t step in.

After the first passenger approached the man and was threatened by him, Shuweikh knew that she needed to connect with him emotionally somehow. She hoped that making him feel like they were on the same team, he might leave the family alone.

Shuweikh said: 

“I thought, if I reason with him and talk to him and pretend that I’m sympathetic with what he’s saying, maybe I can defuse the problem because he was actually talking to the little boy.”

At the end of the video, while Shuweikh is still trying to talk the man down, he visibly gets louder and closer to her. Shuweikh shared that he became even more aggressive after the video ended, and she feared what might happen to her when he got close to her face.

Shuweikh said:

“I did start to panic when he came up into my face, but I managed to keep a calmness and keep trying to defuse the situation.”

After Atkins shared the video on Twitter, many came to comment on Shuweikh’s cool-headedness and bravery in that moment.

Shuweikh shared in the end that, for her, it’s all about showing support for our fellow humans.

Shuweikh reflected:

“If it had been me I would have liked someone to stand up for me.” 

Shuweikh shared that many of her beliefs about supporting each other stem from her personal experiences growing up, of how others perceived her as a Muslim woman and as someone wearing a hijab.

Earlier in the year, she was involved in a public altercation, and no one came to her aide. She insists, however, that if a situation like this were to arise again, she would step in to help again.

Shuweikh said:

“It doesn’t matter who it is. If someone’s being abused, then someone needs to step in. I think we need to all step in to help.”

Let this be an example to all of us.

People fear what they don’t understand. The children’s picture book All Are Welcome is available here.

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McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.