By Mike Murillo
The leader of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has been suspended from a state commission tasked with coming up with solutions to combat a rise in the number of hate crimes.
Zainab Chaudry was taken off the commission by Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) after she made posts on social media allegedly critical of Israel’s actions in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
“Ms. Chaudry’s posts on her personal social media since Oct. 7, in these very early days of the Commission, have challenged the Commission’s ability to do its work,” Brown’s office said in a news release announcing the decision.
The Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention is made up of more than 20 organizations, including CAIR, which, according to the attorney general’s office, are required to serve on the commission.
Brown, as chair of the commission, controls who from each organization serves on the board.
“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. 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 said in a statement.
Speaking to WTOP about the decision, Chaudry called it “deeply troubling” and said her suspension for making the posts infringes on her First Amendment rights.
“These comments were made in my own personal capacity. And they were in no shape, way or form designed to invite hate,” she said.
She said her organization has been clear that it condemns the killing of innocent lives, “regardless of whether they’re Palestinian or Israeli.”
She also said she feels the posts being criticized have been taken out of context.
“I stand by the context with which these posts were shared,” she said.
Brown said he has directed his staff to develop a draft statement about personal communications by commission members to “carefully balance their right to free speech with their role as a commission member.”
Brown also urged members of the commission to exercise “great care” when making personal postings.
“For example, personal postings that could be reasonably perceived as hate speech may disrupt the ability of the Commission to accomplish its important work,” his office stated.
When it comes to the drafting of a values statement, Chaudry said she will have to examine what’s inside.
“I just want to be clear that whatever platform that I have, that it doesn’t require me to sacrifice advocacy or fighting for justice for any community, including Palestinians,” she said.
As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Mike Murillo. Click here for the WTOP News website.