A Muslim advocacy organization and its high-ranking representative would be removed from the state’s Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention under a proposed bill in the Maryland House of Delegates.

House Bill 763, sponsored by Baltimore Democratic Dels. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg and Dalya Attar and Montgomery County Del. Joe Vogel, comes several months after Zainab Chaudry, Maryland director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, caused controversy after Facebook posts some said were antisemitic. The bill also calls for adding two members of the Muslim community to be appointed by the Maryland attorney general to the commission.

Attorney General Anthony 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.

Vogel, who represents District 17, said in an email Wednesday that he co-sponsored the bill because he believes “CAIR’s representative violated the values and mission of the Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention with inflammatory antisemitic statements. These statements went beyond criticism of the Israeli government, they were objectively antisemitic and caused deep pain to Maryland’s Jewish community.”

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Chaudry condemned the bill, saying that an “effective” hate crimes commission should “center the voices, experiences and concerns of directly impacted communities in order to inspire trust and achieve its objectives.”

The Facebook page of Chaudry is filled with posts related to the current Israel-Hamas war.

An Oct. 26 post by Chaudry reads: “I will never be able to understand how the world summoned up rage for 40 fake Israeli babies while completely turning a blind eye to 3,000 real Palestinian babies.

Another post, from Oct. 17, compares the actions of Israel to Nazi Germany. It shows images of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, one with Nazi flags flying from it in 1936 and one with Israel’s flag on display this year, and says: “That moment when you become what you hated most.”

Chaudry further defended her support for Palestinians Wednesday.

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“American Muslims, and Christian and Muslim Palestinians across the state and around the world are grappling with the trauma and horror of witnessing unfathomable violence unfolding over the last 139 days in Gaza and the West Bank combined with hate bias surging in our own cities and towns,” she wrote in an email to The Baltimore Banner. “Their humanity, pain and perspectives will not be erased. Manufactured controversies surround social media posts are designed to intimidate us into silence and distract from the mandate of this commission.”

She added: “It’s simply not the role of other groups to dictate or decide who should represent any single impacted community on such a commission.”

Attar, who represents District 41, said by email Wednesday morning that she supports the bill because “CAIR has been acting in a bigoted manner towards other groups at risk of hate crimes — other groups they are tasked to work with on the commission to minimize hate.”

Attar went on to say that this has been a problem with the organization “for a long time.”

Attar said she filed Bill 763 to “ensure we not allow an organization like this, an organization that was on the forefront of attacks against the LGBTQ+ community in Montgomery County this year, an organization that justifies the October 7 Massacre, serve on this commission. The White House disavowed this organization several months ago. It’s time for Maryland to do the same.”

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When reached for comment, the group of Republican state delegates who have led a separate effort to remove Chaudry from the commission said they still remain “steadfast” in that mission.

“We support efforts to remove CAIR from the commission as well. Ms. Chaudry’s antisemitic comments are still on social media calling Hamas ‘freedom fighters’ and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany,” the group added.

The group also supports adding a member of the Christian community to the commission.

“The commission includes members from the Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh faith communities. Including a Christian on this commission would embrace the inclusive nature of the commission,” they wrote.

The Rev. Kobi Little, the president of the Baltimore NAACP who also leads the NAACP Maryland State Conference, testified in Annapolis Tuesday in opposition to the bill. He called the bill an “attack on an organization that is a founding member of the commission.”

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Little said CAIR “represents an important constituency,” adding that the “constituency will be effectively silenced if CAIR is removed.”

“The goal should be to build unity through dialogue rather than to allow conflicts half a world away to cause isolation, separation and disengagement,” Little said, adding that if CAIR should continue as a member of the commission and selects Chaudry as its representative, Chaudry should continue to sit on the commission.

Brown, who was at the legislature Wednesday testifying on other bills, could not be immediately reached for comment.

In December, Brown’s office said he didn’t have the authority to remove Chaudry.

“Upon further review, it was determined that the law establishing the Commission directs the Attorney General to appoint members to a 4-year fixed term but does not provide the Attorney General the authority to remove a Commissioner before the expiration of their term nor the authority to suspend a Commissioner during their term of service,” the office said in a statement at the time.

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“Regardless of the action by the General Assembly, it is imperative that the Muslim community is represented on the commission,” Jennifer Donelan, a spokeswoman for Brown’s office, said Wednesday.

A spokesman for Gov. Wes Moore said he wanted to learn more about the bill before responding.

“When bills hit his desk, he will thoroughly review them all to ensure that the Moore-Miller Administration is enacting legislation that is in the best interest of all Marylanders,” spokesperson Carter Elliott said.

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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