The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, opened an office in Catonsville at the end of January that will be the hub of its work in Maryland.
“We are excited to expand our services to the communities we serve — not only to Muslim communities but to any Americans who are targeted by hate or discrimination,” said Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for CAIR.
Before moving into the office at 6120 Baltimore National Pike, CAIR ran its Maryland outreach activities from the organization’s Washington headquarters, Chaudry said.
The move will put the council’s office, which employs one local staff member and a host of volunteers, in the center of Maryland, accessible to people in far-flung areas, she said.
“We wanted the location to be strategically located and accessible to diverse communities across the state,” Chaudry said.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz presented the organization with an executive citation, congratulating it on the occasion.
“We are very pleased that this national organization selected Baltimore County for their first local office in Maryland,” Kamenetz said in an emailed statement. “I am particularly impressed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ mission which emphasizes understanding, compassion and justice for all.
The office is expected to host media events, training sessions and meetings with partners of the organization.
On Feb. 17, at 10 a.m., the office will host a bystander intervention “training of trainers,” to teach people how to train someone to intervene if they see an individual being subjected to a hate crime.
The office will also host client meetings for those who take advantage of its free legal services, which are offered to those targeted by hate crimes or subject to employment discrimination, Chaudry said.
That work, she said, is growing each year, as reported incidents of hate crimes rise.
In 2016, Maryland State Police statistics show that Baltimore County had 73 reported hate crimes, a jump from the 49 reported the previous year. In Maryland, only Montgomery County had as many reported incidents.
“In part, it’s undeniable that the hate we’re seeing has been emboldened by the rhetoric coming from elected officials and people in positions of authority,” Chaudry said. “In Maryland, we have not been immune to the impacts of that.”
The new office will “help push forward the work that needs to be done to make sure that Maryland is a safe and welcoming space,” Chaudry said.