Maryland hate crimes commission member under fire for pro-Hamas posts
Zainab Chaudry, the Maryland director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, took to Facebook to call Hamas terrorists ‘freedom fighters’ and compare Israel to Nazi Germany
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
When Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown announced the inaugural members of the state’s Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention in August, he said Maryland residents “deserve a safe and inclusive state” and pledged to develop strategies to address hate crimes.
Now, one of the members of the commission is facing criticism from a Jewish colleague and from the Jewish legislator who created the commission for comments she has made in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel.
In a series of Facebook posts published on and after Oct. 7, Zainab Chaudry, the director of the Maryland branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, offered praise for Hamas terrorists, compared Israel to Nazi Germany and called the wide swath of Jewish Americans who attended last week’s March for Israel in Washington “genocide sympathizers.”
“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,” said Meredith Weisel, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington office and a member of the Maryland hate crimes commission. “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.”
In a Facebook post on Oct. 7, her first since the Hamas attack began, Chaudry referred to the events in Israel — the coordinated terrorist attacks that killed more than 1,200 people — as “the uprising in Palestine.” She urged people to “keep in mind that they [Palestinians] are a people who are illegally occupied” and referred to the day’s actions as “resistance.”
“Thoughts and prayers fall from the lips and fingertips of elected officials who are sympathetic to the colonizers, but have ignored the rights and dignity of the colonized for decades,” Chaudry wrote. “The thirst for freedom is an innate instinct we’re born with. Resistance is a reminder that it can’t be quenched through might and force.”
Two days later, Chaudry took to Facebook to suggest that Hamas terrorists are “freedom fighters.”
“Ukrainian freedom fighters = heroes. Palestinian freedom fighters = terrorists,” Chaudry wrote. “That’s how Western media and pundits spin the narrative.” The U.S., the European Union and several other countries have designated Hamas to be a terrorist organization. A spokesperson for Maryland’s attorney general told JI that “the views and opinions of any individual Commission member do not reflect those” of the commission or of the attorney general.
“We understand that there are many viewpoints regarding current events in the Middle East. The Commission will do its best to explore the impact of those events on our community, and to determine how best to address escalations in hate and bias incidents across the state,” spokesperson Jennifer Donelan told Jewish Insider. She said the commission plans to “develop policies and protocols governing its work and the way in which its members engage on the issues that define its mission.”
A CAIR spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from JI on Monday.
In one post, Chaudry drew a direct comparison between Nazi Germany and the State of Israel. She shared side-by-side images of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1936, draped with Nazi flags, and again in 2023, with the Israeli flag projected onto it as a statement of solidarity after the Hamas attack. “That moment when you become what you hated most,” she wrote on Oct. 17.
On Oct. 21, Chaudry wrote that “disrupting the Zionist agenda has become a favorite hobby.” On the day of the March for Israel in Washington, organized and supported by the leadership of the U.S. Jewish community, Chaudry wrote a post calling the march’s attendees “genocide sympathizers.”
“It is profoundly disappointing to see a member of this commission use their platform to advance inflammatory rhetoric and harmful policies that cause great pain to Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities,” said Maryland Del. Joe Vogel, who authored the legislation that created the hate crimes commission. He was referring to a recent advocacy campaign led by Chaudry against the teaching of LGBTQ material in K-12 schools. CAIR lobbied for an option for parents to opt their children out of those lessons.
Vogel, a gay Jewish Democrat who is also running for Congress in 2024, urged the panel to consider holding Chaudry accountable.
“The Office of the Attorney General and commission members are ultimately responsible for the operations of this commission,” Vogel told JI. “I support their judgment in determining how to hold accountable a commissioner whose actions further hatred and division and ultimately betray the commission’s core mission and values.”