Calls for Maryland Council on American-Islamic Relations director to be reinstated on Hate Crimes Commission | Latest News

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BALTIMORE, Md. – The executive director of the Maryland Office for the Council on American-Islamic Relations has temporarily been suspended from the Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention. According to the Attorney General, Zainab Chaudry shared social media posts in early October that have created challenges for the commission to work. Now, multiple Maryland Muslim organizations are calling for her to be reinstated. 

“The commission must serve as a model for the entire state on how to respond to incidents of hate and bias. The commission is facing its first test. How we respond has deep implications,” said Attorney General Anthony Brown on Tuesday. “I take this very seriously and I will do everything possible to bring people together to move forward the critical work of this commission.”

Chaudry posted on her personal social media beginning on Oct. 7, the day when Hamas militants attacked Israeli civilians, killing many and taking others hostage. CBS News reported that Chaudry referred to “the uprising in Palestine” on Oct. 7, and two days later referenced “Palestinian freedom fighters,” drawing criticism from some who say she was “dismissing the horror of what Hamas did.”

Since then, Brown has temporarily suspended Chaudry’s membership on the hate crimes commission. Staff have been assigned to develop a values statement regarding personal communications to guide the balance between free speech and their roles as commission members. Brown has advised all members to “exercise great care” in their communications and conduct and to consider the duties and responsibilities they assumed when joining the commission, as he said personal postings that could be “reasonably perceived” as hate speech may disrupt the ability of the commission to accomplish its work.

“Jews, Muslims and Christians lived side by side for centuries mostly peacefully until the Zionist movement was created in the late 19th century with the objective of exterminating Palestinians from their homeland,” Chaudry shared on Facebook on Nov. 21.

In a letter to the Attorney General on Nov. 22, the Maryland House of Delegates asked that Chaudry not be reinstated. The letter, signed by seven delegates, commented on one post in particular that included a Nazi flag alongside the Israeli flag with the caption, “That moment when you become what you hated most.”

“The aggressive antisemitism of this post is unseemly from any decent person but is especially objectionable from someone serving on a commission whose sole purpose is to prevent hate crimes,” the letter said.

The Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention was recently established, after Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed legislation into law during the 2023 legislative session. Its purpose is to develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate crime activity and evaluate state laws and policies regarding hate crimes. More than 20 organizations are required under the new law to serve on the commission, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for which Chaudry is the executive director. So far, the commission has only met once, in early September.

On Nov. 22, the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that nearly 4,000 petitioners and dozens of Maryland Muslim community organizations have called for Chaudry to be reinstated, including Family Rights for Religious Freedom, the Islamophobia Studies Center, the Islamic Center of Maryland, Justice For All, and the United Maryland Muslim Council.

“As the only American Muslim on the Attorney General’s Hate Crimes Commission, Chaudry’s voice was critical in representing our community’s concerns to your office,” said a letter from Chaudry’s supporters to Attorney General Brown. “Even a temporary suspension of her role is harmful and completely unjustified… Suspending Chaudry for criticizing the Israeli government’s horrific crimes and for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people is unacceptable. This attack on her is an attack on all of us and we will not accept it.”

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