Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown has suspended Zainab Chaudry, director of the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), from the newly created Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention, as of Tuesday, Nov. 21, the Attorney General’s office said in a press release.
The move, along with others announced by Brown’s office, comes a few days after the office was made aware of several social media posts by Chaudry that compared the Israeli government to the Nazis, described the actions of Hamas as freedom fighters rising in resistance and called babies killed in the Hamas attack “40 fake Israeli babies.”
“The Commission must serve as a model for the entire State on how to respond to incidents of hate and bias,” Brown said in a statement. “The Commission is facing its first test. 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.”
Brown also called for the creation of a draft of a values statement about the personal communications of committee members in a way that lets them “balance their right to free speech with their role as a Commission member.”
In addition, he asked the members to exercise caution with their conduct and statements so as to not post public statements that could be “reasonably perceived as hate speech,” which would interfere with the work the committee is trying to accomplish.
Brown’s actions have been praised by several members of the Maryland Jewish community, along with seven elected officials in the Maryland State Legislature, who wrote a statement on Nov. 22 calling out the “aggressive antisemitism” coming from Chaudry, a person tasked with preventing hate crimes, and thanking Brown for his decisive actions.
“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,” the group of delegates said in their statement. The delegates who signed the statement were Matt Morgan, Lauren Ariken, Ryan Nawrocki, Kathy Szeliga, Mark Fisher, Brian Chisholm and Nicholaus Kipke.
Jewish community leaders expressed outrage at the posts and the language contained inside of them, leading to wide condemnations, including from Meredith Weisel, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington office who is also a member of the Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention.
“As commissioners who are supposed to be showing leadership in the fight against hate, it’s disappointing and concerning that inflammatory rhetoric is being used instead of finding ways to bring people together,” Weisel told Jewish Insider. “We may have disagreements on the policies in Israel and Gaza,” Weisel said of Chaudry, but her posts are “downright dismissive of the majority of American Jews.”
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that JCRC may look at ways to have CAIR removed from the commission in light of this incident.
“That organization could actually be inspiring people to commit acts of violence because of the terrible language [in Chaudry’s posts]. They’re obviously the wrong organization to be on the commission,” Halber said. “If there’s someone else in the organization who isn’t as full of hate, and someone else who is more willing to be a good faith partner, build ties and strengthen the fabric of our community, then I think they should put them forward.”
When reached for comment, Chaudry doubled down on her comments about Israel and criticized the treatment of her statements versus those of other members of the committee. She also described Israel as having a “racist and openly genocidal government.”
“Criticisms of foreign governments, including those established as apartheid governments as is Israel, is protected free speech,” Chaudry told the WJW. “Other members of the commission represent organizations that have openly expressed support for the Israeli government’s genocidal violence against Palestinians in Gaza and support for bigotry here at home.”
Chaudry said that now is not the time for her to be out of the position, when anti-Muslim hate crimes and other rhetoric are at high levels. Chaudry said now there is no voice for the well-being and interests for Maryland’s Muslim community.
“Over the past six weeks, anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Palestinian racism have soared in Maryland and across the nation, leading to unprecedented harassment, discrimination, censorship, intimidation and hate crimes,” she said. “As the sole American Muslim representative on the Attorney General’s Hate Crimes Commission, my role is to help ensure the State of Maryland can take effective action to confront bigotry impacting Maryland Muslim communities. That role is now more important than ever.”
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has no other update on the status of Chaudry’s position, and the matter has yet to be finalized.