Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission chairman resigns months after assault charge

Raj Islam (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office)
Raj Islam (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office)

VIRGINIA BEACH  — Raj Islam resigned as chairman of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission Friday, nearly four months after he was arrested in connection with what police described as a domestic violence incident.

Islam will remain on the commission despite being on probation for an alleged assault on a family member.

Sylvia Nery-Strickland, who was the commission’s most recent vice-chair, has been elected chairwoman of the commission, and confirmed Islam’s resignation Wednesday.

“Raj is no longer chair, but will remain an active member of the commission,” Nery-Strickland said. 

Nery-Strickland did not elaborate on why Islam is still allowed to be on the commission.

However, meeting minutes from the commission provided some insight. According to the commission’s Feb. 14 meeting minutes, Islam said that “depending on the outcome” of his court case, “he will either submit his resignation or continue his term as the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee.”

Islam was not immediately available for comment.

Related story: Va Beach human rights leader charged in connection with domestic violence-related incidents

Islam was arrested Nov. 12, 2018 on two misdemeanor counts of assaulting a family member, as well as a felony charge of attempted malicious wounding. According to the criminal complaint, Islam was accused of separate assaults by an adult and a minor “who both live in his household.”

Islam was in court Tuesday to face those charges, but according to court records, prosecutors did not pursue the attempted malicious wounding charge, nor did they pursue one of the assault charges. It was unclear from court records what led prosecutors to drop those charges against Islam.

Islam instead pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the remaining assault charge under a “deferred finding” from Substitute Judge Anthony Nicolo. Under the order, Islam will be placed on probation for the next two years — he was ordered to have “no hostile contact” with the two family members in question.

If he complies with probation, the assault charge will be dismissed. If he does not comply in any way, the court can “enter an adjudication of guilt and proceed with sentencing.”

The commission was founded out of the disruption of the 1989 Labor Day weekend riots at the Oceanfront. City Council passed an ordinance on Aug. 6, 1991 establishing the commission, according to a history of the commission on their website.

City Council appoints members to the commission, while members then elect the officers.

The commission promotes “mutual understanding and respect among citizens, and the fulfillment of human rights,” and also serves as a forum for the discussion of human rights issues, according to the commission’s mission statement. The commission is also charged with providing assistance to those who believe their rights have been violated.

Nery-Strickland was appointed to the commission in 1992 and has served off and on since. She served as chairwoman of the commission in 1994, and currently serves on the Virginia Beach Resort Advisory Committee.

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