Attorney General Anthony Brown has suspended a member of the Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention, citing personal social media posts that he said “risk disrupting the work and mission of the Commission.”
Brown’s office learned last week about Zainab Chaudry’s Facebook posts, according to a news release.
The Facebook page of Chaudry, who is also the Maryland director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, is filled with posts related to the current Israel-Hamas war. CAIR is a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.
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.”
Many countries showed solidarity with Israel after a surprise Hamas attack that killed about 1,200 people on Oct. 7. Since then, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Ministry of Health estimates, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in counter-attacks by Israel.
It is estimated that Nazis and their allies killed more than 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Brown stressed in a written statement that 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,” he said. “How we respond has deep implications. I take this very seriously, and I will do everything possible to bring people together to move forward the critical work of this Commission.”
In a statement Tuesday evening, Chaudry did not apologize and in fact questioned the legal basis for suspending her.
“As I expressed to the Attorney General today and as I plan to express during our next meeting tomorrow, succumbing to pressure from dangerous, defamatory smear campaigns designed to fuel the fires of anti-Muslim bigotry and chill free speech, and to silence those advocating for justice, undermines the mission and work of the commission,” she wrote.
Chaudry added, “None of the criticisms that I leveled against Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right, racist and openly genocidal government on my personal social media accounts violated any known commission standards and there is no legal basis for suspending the participation of my civil rights organization, which is mandated by state law.”
She said she planned to continue “to advocate for justice through my activism” and expected a measured and appropriate response from Brown.
Wednesday, seven Republican state delegates wrote Brown to criticize what they called Chaudry’s “aggressive antisemitism” and to request that the attorney general remove her from the commission.
“We are grateful for your swift suspension of Ms. Chaudry and hope that your commitment to defending the Jewish people will continue and that you will ultimately decide not to reinstate someone whose views pose such a danger to the Jewish community,” says the letter.
They also shared their individual concerns in an accompanying news release.
Del. Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, said: “Ms. Chaudry may believe the images of slaughtered infants are in some way faked, but I think that the grieving parents and families of those murdered babies would disagree. Hamas terrorists wore cameras on their bodies to record their attacks so the world would know what they did, and we have no reason to doubt it. It’s disgusting to deny the grief and horror that the Israeli people suffered on October 7th and that Jewish people all over the world are still feeling.”
Del. Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore County said: “Fomenting hate during the war going on in the Middle East is contrary to the mission of the Commission and should be grounds for immediate dismissal.”
Del. Matt Morgan of southern Maryland pointed out that Brown declared in a written statement that the commission “must serve as a model for the entire State on how to respond to incidents of hate and bias.” Morgan added, “This behavior does not serve as a role model for our state, especially not our children.”
Also signing the letter were Dels. Ryan Nawrocki, Mark Fisher, Lauren Arikan and Brian Chisholm.
Gov. Wes Moore’s office declined to comment on Brown’s action.
The commission, which is composed of more than 20 organizations, including CAIR, was established by legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Moore earlier this year, according to Brown’s news release.
The release notes that “the Commission is charged with developing strategies to prevent and respond to hate crime activity, evaluating State laws and policies relating to hate crimes, and reporting annually to both the General Assembly and the Maryland State Department of Education.”
Brown is charged with leading the commission’s diverse members “to help rid our State of unlawful and hateful activities,” the news release continues, and this requires members “to work collaboratively and with mutual respect.”
“If any member of the Commission disrupts the work and mission of the Commission, then they will be subject to removal,” the news release states.
The attorney general’s office on Tuesday called on commission members to “exercise great care in their communications and conduct, considering the duties and responsibilities they assumed when joining the Commission. For example, personal postings that could be reasonably perceived as hate speech may disrupt the ability of the Commission to accomplish its important work.”
Brown’s office declined to comment on questions from The Baltimore Banner about the length of the suspension, how the office learned about the posts and what specific posts were deemed problematic.
This story has been updated with a statement from Zainab Chaudry and comments from Republican state lawmakers.