Maryland attorney general suspends hate crimes commission member for Israel-Hamas war social media posts

Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown on Tuesday suspended a member of the state’s relatively new hate crimes commission for her social media comments on the latest war between Israel and Hamas.

Zainab Chaudry, who is the executive director of the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is temporarily suspended from her position as a member of the Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention, the attorney general’s office said.

Brown, chairman of the hate crimes commission created by the Maryland General Assembly this year, has the authority to remove any member who “disrupts the work and mission of the commission,” the attorney general’s office said in a news release.

Chaudry’s personal social media posts about the war since the terrorist organization Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the attorney general’s office said, “challenged the Commission’s ability to do its work.”

“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,” said Brown, a Democrat, in a statement. “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.”

Some have criticized Chaudry’s Facebook posts, which promote the Palestinian cause and criticize Israel, as antisemitic.

She told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday the her comments reflect only her views, not those of the commission or the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and said she was exercising her right to free speech.

“It’s a shame that at this time there temporarily won’t be any representation for the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian community in Maryland when we are seeing an unprecedented rise in Islamophobia and Palestinian hate crimes and bias incidents,” Chaudry said.

Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents, including those featuring violence, have increased across America since the latest Israel-Hamas war erupted Oct. 7.

In addition to suspending Chaudry, Brown ordered his staff to create draft “values statement” about commission member’s personal communications, to be taken up at the commission’s next meeting, according to his office. Brown also called on commission members to “exercise great care in their communications and conduct, considering the duties and responsibilities they assumed when joining the commission.”

Borne from legislation passed by the legislature this year and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, the commission is responsible for developing strategies to prevent and respond to hate crimes as well as evaluating state hate crime policies and laws, according to the attorney general’s office.

The development with Chaudry comes after Johns Hopkins Medicine placed one of its physicians on leave earlier this month for his social media posts about Palestinians after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations filed a complaint with the Maryland Board of Physicians against Dr. Darren Klugman, the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s director of pediatric cardiac critical care and an associate professor at the university.