The Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention was deep into its work last fall, creating a web portal to report hate crimes and holding community forums on the importance of fighting such bias. Then the commission became embroiled in controversy and chaos.

Zainab Chaudry, Maryland director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, made a series of what some said were anti-Israel social-media posts, leading to her suspension from the commission. But she was reinstated a month later when Attorney General Anthony Brown’s office said he didn’t have the authority to remove Chaudry.

Now the commission is about to get an overhaul under new rules that govern how members are chosen, established under legislation passed during the most recent General Assembly session.

The legislation forces the 25 members — including Chaudry — to reapply to the commission. Brown will be responsible for choosing from the applicants.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Brown did not introduce the legislation or testify for or against it, and also has not said if he thinks Chaudry should serve on the commission. Citing the importance of thwarting hate bias, Brown said he is eagerly looking forward to the application process.

Neither Chaudry nor CAIR could be reached for comment, and it is unknown if Chaudry reapplied to the commission.

“We want to be inundated with applicants so that we ensure that we get the very best,” Brown said.

Fifteen of the new members will be selected by Brown based on their representation or advocacy on behalf of a protected class of people identified under the state’s hate crimes law, including race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and homelessness. Eight members will be appointed from specified organizations, including the Maryland Center for School Safety, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Maryland Sheriff’s Association, Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association and Maryland Office of the Public Defenders. Two members will be appointed from the general public, which means they can be outside the protected class of people.

Baltimore Dels. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg and Dalya Attar and Montgomery County Del. Joe Vogel sponsored the bill that resulted in the change to the way the commission is chosen. None responded to repeated requests for comment on why the appointment process was changed.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“I’m pleased with the results of the legislation in that it does ensure that all voices will be represented on the commission,” Brown said. “I’m pleased that the legislation did not target specific groups or communities to exclude. It provides for an inclusive and diverse composition.”

Applications were submitted through the end of May, with Brown predicting he will make a decision by the end of this month. The commission will then work in an acting capacity until 2025, when commissioners must get state Senate confirmation.

The new appointment process comes as hate bias incidents are on the rise in Maryland, according to the 2022 Hate Bias report from the Maryland Department of State Police.

There were 654 hate bias incidents reported by Maryland law enforcement agencies in 2022, according the report. From 2020-2022, the average number of hate bias incidents was 412 per year.

Black men (24.4%) and Black women (20.7%) were most likely to be the victims of hate bias, with white men accounting for 19% of cases. White men accounted for 28.8% of offenders. Juveniles accounted for 19.2% of known victims and 17.1% of known offenders, according to the report.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“Hate bias incidents are on the rise. There is no room for hate in Maryland and we have to do something to address it,” Brown said.

The work of the commission was derailed last fall when Chaudry caused a stir when a series of her Facebook posts some said were antisemitic. Brown suspended Chaudry from the commission in November after requests from seven Republican state delegates and others critical of the posts. A month later, Brown reinstated her.

Chaudry has since continued to defend her support for Palestinians.

A group of Republican state delegates — Ryan Nawrocki, District 7A, Baltimore County; Lauren Arikan, Republican, District 7B, Harford County; and Kathy Szeliga, District 7A, Baltimore County — appeared to remain opposed to Chaudry’s being on the commission if she applied this cycle.

“We are hopeful that applicants will be committed to protecting everyone from hate crimes. In particular, we expect that the Attorney General will no longer allow individuals on the commission who believe in the annihilation of the Jewish people,” they wrote in a statement.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Last month, Brown said Chaudry was “very instrumental” in the commission’s focus on addressing hate in schools.

“She has a continued interest in the work of the commission,” Brown said. “She has expressed an interest that all voices and protected groups are represented on the commission.”

When asked if Chaudry said she was going to apply for the commission, Brown responded: “That’s up to her.”

Brown said he did not know who is applying. He stressed that all interested groups — whether CAIR, the NAACP or the Baltimore Jewish Council ― should apply to the commission to help ensure that they will be represented.