Wadea Al-Fayoume, six, fatally stabbed as Joseph Czuba charged with hate crime in response to Israel-Hamas war
Police in Chicago have charged 71-year-old Joseph Czuba with hate crimes, reportedly in relation to the ongoing situation between Israel and Hamas, after he allegedly fatally stabbed Wadea Al-Fayoume
US police officers have charged a 71-year-old Chicago man with a hate crime after he allegedly stabbed a six-year-old Muslim boy to death in response to the war between Israel and Hamas.
Six-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume, who celebrated his sixth birthday only a few weeks ago, was killed at a home in Plainfield Township, Illinois, located around 40 miles outside Chicago. Both he and his mother, 32-year-old Palestinian-born Hanaan Shahin, were attacked. His mother sustained from more than a dozen stab wounds, but is expected to survive her serious injuries.
The young boy was stabbed a total of 26 times. He was pronounced dead in hospital. Both Ms Shahin and her son, who was born in the US, suffered from "multiple stab wounds to their chest, torso, and upper extremities".
Will County Sheriff's Office said that it had received an emergency call from a woman on Saturday morning (14 October) who told officers that her landlord was attacking her. According to police, the woman "ran into the bathroom and continued to fight off her attacker" while on the phone to the authorities.
Police found the suspect, named as 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, "sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence". He is said to have been found with a cut on his forehead. Police added: "The knife used in this attack is a 12-inch (31cm) serrated military style knife that has a seven-inch blade."
Will County Sheriff's Office said that it was determined by officers that the attack was targeted against the young boy and his mother because of their Islamic faith. The sheriff's office added that it also took place as a response to the Israel-Hamas war. In a statement, Will County Sheriff’s Office said: “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."
According to US-based Muslim civil liberties organisation CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), text messages from Ms Shahin to the boy's father alleged that the suspect had yelled "You Muslims must die!" before he attacked the family. Mr Czuba has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, hate crimes and aggravated battery.
CAIR-Chicago called the attack "our worst nightmare" and noted a spike in hate calls and emails to the organisation since the escalation in violence in the Middle East. Ahmed Rehab, CAIR executive director, said in a news conference: "[Wadea] paid the price for the atmosphere of hate and otherisation and dehumanisation that frankly I think we are seeing here in the United States as a result of the irresponsible leadership, lopsided, one-sided statements and coverage that we're seeing in the media, elected officials." Speaking of the hate directed toward Amrican-Muslims in the early 2000s in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack, he added: "And we warned about not recreating the same mistake we had in the post 9/11 environment."
US President Joe Biden said that he was "sickened" by the death of Wadea. He said in a statement: "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. As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred."