US Muslim Advocacy Day sees 'record-breaking' turnout amid Gaza war

US Muslim Advocacy Day sees 'record-breaking' turnout amid Gaza war
Muslim Advocacy Day took place this week amid mounting frustration over the US government's continued support for Israel's war in Gaza.
3 min read
Washington, DC
04 May, 2024
Around 700 Muslims visited the US Capitol this week to advocate for civil and human rights domestically and abroad. [Photo courtesy of CAIR]

Muslim Advocacy Day, which involves politicians and civil society members visiting the US and state capitols, took place this week amid growing frustration over the US government's continued support for Israel's war on Gaza.

A record turnout saw more than 700 Muslims visit the US Capitol on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to advocate for civil rights protections in the US, for an end to US aid to Israel and for reconstruction support for Gaza.

Although named Muslim Advocacy Day, the event now spans several days due to increasing participation. 

Organised by the US Council of Muslim Organisations, the event gained special significance this year due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has affected Palestinians with family in the US and led to an increase in harassment and hate crimes against Americans of Middle Eastern and Muslim backgrounds.

"This year was a record-breaking event," Robert McCaw, government affairs director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The New Arab. "There are two factors. First, civic participation continues to grow every year. Secondly, the American Muslim community is incredibly concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Palestinians in Gaza."

In 2023, CAIR reported a sharp increase in bias incidents compared with the previous year, most following the outbreak of conflict in Gaza. From 7 October to 4 November, CAIR received 1,283 reports of bias, marking a 216 percent increase from the previous year.

Following the surprise attack by Hamas on 7 October, Israel launched an air and then land assault on Gaza, which has so far killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians in the densely populated enclave.

Despite the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, strong support for Israel in Congress remains high, with few members supporting conditions for aid.

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McCaw noted that securing meetings at members' offices was particularly challenging this year due to ongoing tensions. Many offices displayed signs reading "I stand with Israel" and had pictures of Israeli hostages.

Madinah Wilson-Anton, a state representative from Delaware, President Joe Biden's home state, visited the Capitol with a group of around 12 Muslims from her state to see meet federal delegation.

Her priorities for the trip included discussing protests on college campuses, protecting free speech, and safeguarding against anti-Muslim bigotry—topics that were challenging to address even in offices open to such meetings. Nevertheless, she says she feels determined to continue advocating for this agenda.

"When you see how impactful your conversations are, it energeises you and reminds you that you need to continue to do that," Wilson-Anton told The New Arab.

She added, "On our drive back to Delaware, we'll be talking about the next steps of how we can continue that momentum."