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Exclusive: Zainab Chaudry speaks about push to remove her from hate crime panel over post comparing Israel to Nazi Germany

Maryland lawmakers consider removing CAIR following comments
Maryland lawmakers consider removing CAIR following comments 02:54

Maryland lawmakers are considering removing the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR, from a state commission to prevent hate crimes.

It follows controversial comments from the organization's state director Zainab Chaudry on Facebook.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren spoke exclusively one-on-one with Chaudry following the Maryland House Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue Tuesday. 

"I have received several death threats. I have been the target of a barrage and onslaught of hatred," Chaudry said.

The push to remove her and CAIR, which bills itself as the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties organization, follows social media posts Chaudry made last year. They include one comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and another referencing "Palestinian freedom fighters."

"This is a manufactured controversy that's designed to minimize and silence the communities that are simply asking for justice," Chaudry said.

Some groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, testified in favor of the bill

"There have been many troubling social media posts and statements, made by both CAIR at the national level and CAIR's Maryland director. Statements calling Hamas terrorists Palestinian freedom fighters, using Holocaust distortion, is deeply concerning for the Jewish community," said Meredith Wiesel of the ADL.

"This is a very simple issue. We cannot have arsonists running a fire department, and that's what we have today," said Jay Bernstein, who spoke in favor of the bill removing CAIR from the hate prevention panel. 

Chaudry appeared virtually at the hearing and faced questions from lawmakers about whether she regrets her posts.

"You stated, 'That moment when you become what you hated the most' in reference to Israel comparing it to Nazi Germany. Have you retracted those statements?" Harford County Delegate Lauren Arikan asked Chaudry.

"Have you apologized for any of this language in the last three months?" 

Delegate Chris Tomlinson, who represents Carroll and Frederick Counties, asked Chaudry.

WJZ asked Chaudry her response to those concerns.

"When you work for justice, sometimes you have to navigate difficult spaces and uncomfortable conversations when we talk about what justice looks like. The intention behind the posts is not to hurt anyone," Chaudry said. 

State law mandates CAIR have a seat on the commission. Attorney General Anthony Brown initially suspended Chaudry.

But Brown later said he had no legal authority to do so and reinstated her, leading lawmakers to look for legislative solutions to the highly-charged issue

Chaudry said she is not going anywhere unless she is forced to do so. 

"It's unfortunate, and it's shameful because it is distracting from the core mission of the hate crimes commission, but we hope that we can get back to that work as soon as possible," she said. "…The  communities impacted by hate should have a say in who represents them, and I think over the last few weeks we have seen an outpouring of support."

There is a separate bill that would not remove CAIR but would give the attorney general the power to suspend or remove individual members and adopt a code of conduct for them. 

"Our mission is to heal the community not divide it. CAIR is clearly not up to this task," said Deborah Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

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