Even though there may not have been any immediate effect, these demonstrations and protests have led many to wake up and realize the horrendous situation in Gaza. In fact, if the response continues to grow, there is a very good chance governments will have to eventually respond to these angry voices.
In light of the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, protestors worldwide have flooded city streets and towns in a feverous attempt to change the dynamics of the political situation in Gaza. The deaths of over 800 Palestinians and over 3000 injured have left many Muslims worldwide passionate and driven to make a difference.
Various parts of the United States have held protests both in great and smaller numbers. Tampa Bay, Fla., for example, had a rally of 500. Like many of the protests that have taken place, Tampa's was held on a busy highway intersection of Spruce St. and Dale Mabry Avenue. Layla Faiz was one of the protestors that attended in an effort to show her solidarity with the Palestinians.
"I was so glad to see the amount of support from people, not only in the local Tampa community, but also from communities in nearby cities like Orlando, who showed up on such short notice," she said. "I was also glad to see so many different kinds of Muslims, from all colors and backgrounds, both Shia and Sunni, standing side-by-side. I thought it was great to see many non-Muslims showing their solidarity for the cause as well, Alhamdulillah."
Even though the procession was successful, the press paid some attention to the minor clash that went on between an Israeli supporter and a protestor.
"A specific incident occurred between a Palestinian and an Israeli supporter who showed up to protest our demonstration," she said. "There were only two Israeli supporters. I personally did not even see what went on, but the local news stations, of course, picked up on the minor clash."
Besides commenting on the clash, Layla brought to light the attitudes of protestors that feel they have no responsibility towards the Palestinians and see the attack as solely a Palestinian issue. In addition, she described the fear that protestors have of speaking out.
"Another thing that still really upsets me is that more Muslims from certain backgrounds – Pakistani/Indian, other non-Palestinian Arabs – are still very apathetic about the issue of Palestine, seeing it as solely a Palestinian issue, and many more who are simply hesitant to share their sentiments publicly for fear of retribution/backlash," she added.
The Canadian city of Vancouver held a protest that consisted of several rallies in front of the US Consulate and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Fatemah Meghji, President of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, gave a speech specifically in support of the Palestinians. She said was pleased at the outcome of the protest, adding that it was "one of the largest protests in recent times… and was very varied as [there were] Jews, Caucasians, Asians, Shias, Sunnis, and people from all walks of life."
These rallies were well publicized both internationally and locally. For instance, it was covered by mainstream Canadian news outlets as well as reported by Iranian-based news organization PressTV. Not only were newspapers and TV broadcasters aware of the rallies, protestors themselves were eager to record footage and post it onto YouTube. Many of these resources have been posted online.
In comparison to the protest in Florida, Vancouver's was one that was endorsed by various multicultural organizations. These included the Communist Party of Canada, Muslim Canadian Federation, Jews for Just Peace, Canadians Against War, Indigenous Action Movement, University of British Columbia's Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, and Canadian Arab Mission, to name a few.
On a grander scale, New York City protests have been on-going from the beginning of the attack on Gaza. Sister Fatima-al-Zahra Abdul-Nabi, a student at Columbia University, said she was very encouraged with both the outcomes and the scale of the two protests she attended in the City.
When asked why she attended, she explained, "I showed up to let the people passing by in the streets know that there is injustice in Palestine, and people are speaking up about it. We are showing our faces and raising our voices."
Attesting to the diversity of New York City, the protests consisted of various people from all countries and belief systems.
"In the first protest, there was a large population of Arabs from different countries, White Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Christians, and Jews," she said. "But the second protest had a much more transparent scenery of the protesters' backgrounds: flags of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Malawi, Tunisia, Iraq, and Iraq; signs that read 'Koreans for a Free Palestine' and 'Another Jew Against the Occupation'; and slogans shouted in different languages throughout the marching line. It was amazing to see how a diverse New York came together for the same cause."
One of the most interesting occurrences in the New York protests was that several anti-protest demonstrations were held on the street at the same time. According to Abdul-Nabi, several self-proclaimed Zionists held American and Israeli flags as well as a sign that read, "Hamas Worships Death, Go Kill Yourselves!" Even still, she believed in the unity of the protestors.
"Although they are influential because of what's in their pockets, we have the potential to be influential too – with our voices!" she said. "We outnumber them greatly, that if we were to unite, we would no doubt beat them."
The anti-protest eventually fizzled out in less than an hour to about one person that was holding a sign and walking on her own.
All the way on the other side of the globe, around 2500 protestors lined one of the busiest areas of the capital city Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Over half of the protestors consisted of women from both Sunni and Shia communities of Dar es Salaam. As the women marched behind the men, all chanted various phrases condemning both the Israeli and American governments for the recent attacks that have killed over 400 civilians.
"We all aren't doing enough, and so this is our chance to voice our opinion and get various governments to take action against this atrocity," Shyma Khaki said. She went on to explain that protests are a way of speaking out to governments and helping fellow Muslim brothers and sisters that are being killed and tortured, whilst also expressing her contentment at the turnout of protestors.
"This is also a chance for women to take action," she added.
Even though the Dar es Salaam protest did receive as much publicity internationally as some of the other protests in North America and the United Kingdom, local newspapers and broadcasters were present throughout.
London is another international city that has had two very large demonstrations in the city so far. The first took place early January and attracted close to about 50,000 protestors. Zahra Kassamali was one of the protestors that attended particularly to show support to the Palestinians.
"I think it is very important to show Muslim solidarity and unity and to slowly break down the differences/barriers between us," she said.
Upon reaching Whitehall, thousands of Muslim protestors began to throw shoes at the gates of Downing Street (residence of the British Prime Minister) as a symbol of disgust at the attacks on Gaza. In addition, protestors were keen on mimicking the Muntazer Al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference last year.
Like protests worldwide, the demonstrations in London attracted voices of various socialist and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Stop the War Coalition. Besides famous figures such as George Galloway and Ken Livingstone, these organizations were given a chance to speak.
"They gave out a variety of messages on the causes of the conflict and what they believed needed to be done," Kassamali said.
Even though protestors said they were not afraid to voice their opinion as well as come out on to city streets in very large numbers, Kassamali feels that such protests are not enough to make a change in the situation in Gaza.
However, she raises an important question about the effect of the international response to the attacks on Gaza. Even though there may not have been any immediate effect, these demonstrations and protests have led many to wake up and realize the horrendous situation in Gaza. In fact, if the response continues to grow, there is a very good chance governments will have to eventually respond to these angry voices.
"I have a rather limited belief as to whether it will actually affect those governments concerned and the position of our government," she said. "However, I hope it has an impact on the British population in general and make them think about what is happening and work towards relieving the suffering of the Palestinians."