A 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy was killed in his Illinois home by his landlord, who has been charged with murder and hate crimes after allegedly stabbing the boy to death because he was Muslim. The boy’s mother was also critically wounded the anti-Muslim hate crime, with police calling it a “senseless and cowardly act of violence.” The brutal killing comes amid heightened tensions in the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East and at a time when Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. are warning against hate toward their people stateside.
The boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed 26 times at his Plainfield home by Joseph Czuba, 71, Saturday, investigators said. He died at the hospital. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, was stabbed more than a dozen times; she is at a hospital and is expected to survive. When officers arrived at the scene, about 40 miles (64km) south-west of Chicago, they found Czuba sat on the ground outside the property with a cut to his face. He was taken to hospital for treatment before being questioned by detectives, and later charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, hate crimes and aggravated battery. The Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release: “Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”
A funeral service and burial was held on Monday afternoon at the Mosque Foundation in the town of Bridgeview, Illinois which is sometimes referred to as “Little Palestine” because of its large Palestinian-American population. At the end of the funeral, a small white casket, which at one point was covered in the Palestinian flag, was carried away.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois, based in Chicago, said that the office had opened a federal hate crime investigation into the stabbings to determine whether the suspect violated federal law. The Department of Justice warned the incident may “further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.”
In statements on Monday, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas condemned the attack. President Joe Biden said: “This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are. The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace.”nVice President Kamala Harris said Monday that she and her husband “grieve with the family of Wadea Al-Fayoume. We unequivocally condemn hate and Islamophobia and stand with the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue working to protect our communities against hate and senseless violence.” Mr. Mayorkas said: “There is no humane world that can and should tolerate the murder of an innocent child because of his identity. The tragic events in the Middle East…have brought ideologies of hate to the fore across the world – notably antisemitism and Islamophobia. This must end.”
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