Attorney General Anthony Brown has ended the suspension of Zainab Chaudry from her position on the Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention following outrage over social media posts by Chaudry that Brown previously said “risk disrupting the work and mission of the Commission.”
Chaudry, who is also the Maryland director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, was suspended after Brown’s office learned in November about Facebook posts that some — including seven Republican state delegates — said displayed “aggressive antisemitism.” That group requested that Brown remove Chaudry from the commission.
In a news release Wednesday, Brown’s office said: “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 commission, which is composed of representatives from more than 20 organizations, was established by legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore earlier this year. It’s tasked with developing strategies to prevent and respond to hate crimes as well as evaluating state laws related to hate crimes.
Brown, a Democrat, previously wrote that the commission “must serve as a model for the entire State on how to respond to incidents of hate and bias.”
Prior to the commission’s next meeting on Dec. 13, Brown will distribute draft operating guidelines for members’ review and feedback that touch on personal communications and how to balance the members’ right to freedom of speech and their roles as commissioners, according to Brown’s release.
“The draft guidelines will emphasize that appointees to the Maryland Hate Crimes Commission are public officials charged with specific roles and responsibilities under State law,” the news release states. “In accepting these positions, appointees assume an obligation to put their own interests aside when coming to the table to serve as advisors on matters of such great public importance.”
“Once the guidelines are finalized, all Commission members will be expected to comply with them and I fully anticipate that they will,” Brown explained. “I believe the Commissioners recognize the commitment required to eradicate hate crimes and bias incidents in Maryland, including the rising tide of antisemitism and Islamophobia. We must all put aside our differences, no matter how stark they may seem, and find common ground on ways to respond to and prevent hate crimes in our state.”
Del. Joe Vogel, a Democrat from Montgomery County, said the commission should delay further meetings until Brown has the authority to remove members. Last month, Vogel said the Office of the Attorney General and members of the Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention are ultimately responsible for the operations of the commission.
”I support their judgement in determining how to hold accountable a commissioner whose actions further hatred and division and ultimately betray the commission’s core mission and values,” Vogel wrote in a prepared statement. “In light of the Attorney General’s announcement today, I have requested legislation be drafted that I will sponsor this upcoming session, providing the Attorney General with authority to suspend and remove members of the commission who violate an established code of conduct. I will urge for this to be considered emergency legislation, so the commission can carry on with its vital mission.”
Reached for comment Wednesday, Chaudry forwarded a statement from national CAIR Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell.
”We welcome Attorney General Anthony Brown’s decision to reinstate the appointment. We also appreciate the productive conversations we have held with Attorney General Brown and his staff over the past few weeks. We agree that it is important for the commission to collaboratively develop additional guidelines and we look forward to upholding those guidelines, which must apply consistently to all commissioners,” he wrote. “We thank the thousands of community members, leaders, students and allies who contacted Attorney General Brown urging him to reverse this decision. CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry looks forward to continuing the critical work of representing the state’s Muslim communities and addressing hate bias, including both Islamophobia and antisemitism, while also advocating justice for all communities here and abroad.”
Mitchell also referenced the anti-Muslim threats that Chaudry has recently received.
He called them “a very small taste of what many other American Muslims have experienced in recent months.”
He added: “From the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy in Chicago to the shooting of three Palestinian students in Vermont to threats, doxxing and harassment aimed at Muslims and Palestinians here in Maryland, anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Palestinian racism are spinning out of control.”
Experts say there has been a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the weeks since Hamas militants massacred more than 1,200 people in southern Israel. Israel countered with retaliatory air strikes and an invasion that the Palestinian health minister says has left about 16,000 Palestinians dead.
The Facebook page of Chaudry 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.”
Previously, Chaudry did not apologize for her posts. In fact, she questioned the legal basis for being suspended.
“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.
Moore’s office declined to comment on Brown’s decision to reinstate Chaudry.