Dr. Zainab Chaudry’s suspension from the Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention was lifted on Dec. 6 by Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown after his office determined they did not possess the power to suspend or remove Commissioners as they serve out their four-year terms of service.
Brown’s reversal ends a two-week suspension for Chaudry, the executive director of the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The attorney general suspended her on Nov. 21 for social media posts that he felt were disruptive to the Commission’s work and mission.
Chaudry’s posts included references to members of Hamas as freedom fighters, comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany and a post saying that “disputing the Zionist agenda” had become a favorite hobby.
But upon review of the suspension, it was determined that while the attorney general may choose the people who serve on the Commission for four-year terms, he does not have any legal authority to suspend or remove a member before their term is up.
The law creating the Commission also specifies that certain organizations, including CAIR, are legally required to be represented on the Commission.
In the immediate aftermath of Chaudry’s suspension, Brown released a statement that said the Commission was working on drafting personal communications guidelines that would allow for members to “balance their right to free speech with their role as a Commission member.”
These guidelines will be worked out and distributed to members before the next Commission meeting in December, according to a press release announcing Chaudry’s reinstatement.
“Once the guidelines are finalized, all Commission members will be expected to comply with them and I fully anticipate that they will,” Brown said in a statement. “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.”
CAIR’s national office released a statement welcoming the decision to reinstate Chaudry and saying that they are now able to resume the important work of preventing hate crimes, which have surged in recent weeks.
“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,” CAIR Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in the statement.
The decision to reinstate Chaudry was not popular among some members of the Jewish community, with several community leaders speaking out against the decision.
“We wholeheartedly supported Attorney General Brown’s decision to temporarily suspend her from the commission in light of these vicious and antisemitic lies and wish it could be permanent,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said in a statement. “Ms. Chaudry remains a divisive and polarizing presence on the commission, which dramatically undermines its ability to carry out its critical mission.”
But despite the reinstatement, the battle may not be over, as WMAR Baltimore reported that Democratic Delegate Joe Vogel, a major proponent of the legislation that led to the creation of the Commission, plans to draft legislation that will give the attorney general the power to suspend or remove members of the Commission.
“Until this authority is granted to the Attorney General, it is my position that this commission should delay any further meetings. Vogel said, according to the WMAR Baltimore report.