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6-year-old Palestinian American killed in anti-Muslim attack in Illinois

27th Oct 2023
6-year-old Palestinian American killed in anti-Muslim attack in Illinois

Elham Asaad Buaras

A 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was brutally stabbed to death in his home by his landlord, who also seriously injured the child’s mother in an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime.

Joseph Czuba, 71, stabbed Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times with a military-style in his Illinois home in Plainfield on October 14 in what President Joe Biden dubbed a “horrific act of hate.”

Hanaan Shahin, his mother, was stabbed more than a dozen times, according to officials, who also added that she is in the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Czuba was arrested and charged after police said they determined he stabbed the child and mother because they were Muslims and because of the ongoing situation in Israel.
Odey Al-Fayoumes, the child’s father, expressed his hope that something positive could result from his son’s murder.

“I’m here because I’m the father of the boy, not because I’m a political person or a religious person or anything. I’m here as the father of a child whose rights were taken from him,” Al-Fayoume said.

He said, “The issue of Hamas and Gaza are world issues, not about individual countries. I’m not big enough to speak of these things. And I hope that my son can be a means by which this issue can be fixed.”

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 US are warning against hate towards their people stateside.

The slaying has sparked public outrage and heartbreak, as well as a White House condemnation. The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced it has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the stabbings.

The Justice Department warned that the incident may “further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fuelled violence.”

Biden denounced the stabbings, saying, “This horrific act of hate has no place in America. The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris said that she and her husband “grieve with the family,” adding, “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 from hate and senseless violence.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago held a news conference with Wadea’s father. CAIR Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said Shahin sent text messages to Wadea’s father recounting what happened and detailing the anti-Muslim statements made during the attack.

CAIR said she texted, “It all happened in seconds.” She said Czuba allegedly knocked on the door, and when she opened it, he choked her, yelling, “You Muslims must die,” Rehab said.

Rehab said the mother and son had lived in the home for two years and had previously had a cordial relationship with the landlord.

“The father said [the landlord] had built a tree house for the boy, allowed him to swim in a makeshift pool, and brought him toys. But it wasn’t until he started watching the news and hearing statements [about the war] that something changed,” Rehab said.

The sheriff’s office said Shahin called 911 after her landlord “attacked her with a knife”—described as a 12-inch, serrated military-style knife with a seven-inch blade—and she ran into the bathroom and fought off her attacker as she called for help.

Czuba was found sitting near the driveway with a laceration to his head, the sheriff’s office said. After being treated at a hospital, he was questioned by detectives but did not make any statements, authorities said.

Court documents said that Shahin told detectives that Czuba attacked her “over the conflict in Jerusalem,” and that days before the stabbing, Czuba confronted her about what was going on in the Middle East.

At an initial court hearing, Czuba was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two hate crime counts. He was denied pretrial release because of the gruesome nature of the crimes and because he posed a threat to Shahin, who survived the attack.

Shahin came to the US 12 years ago from the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Wadea’s father came to the US nine years ago, and Wadea was born in the US.

“I was talking to the father, and he said, ‘Part of the reason we came here was to escape settler violence in which situations like this could occur with impunity, and it chased us to the United States,’” Rehab said.

CAIR accused politicians and media of using Islamophobic rhetoric, which it said contributed to the killing and the rise in violent attacks against Muslim and Arab communities in the wake of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza earlier this month.

In Texas, students at the University of Texas were subjected to reported harassment and verbal taunts by men who did not attend the university during a scheduled teach-in on Palestine and Palestinian history.

And on October 14, thousands of protesters marched from the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles to the FBI’s local office to show solidarity with Gaza and Palestine. During the protest, a group of pro-Israeli counter-protesters began attacking some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, and even a photographer with the LA Times, with pepper spray.

“What’s clear is that the dehumanisation that is portrayed in the media towards Palestinians in Gaza is now taking its hateful face here in America,” said William White, Director of CAIR-Houston, “We call on the media, politicians, and local leaders to condemn the violence in Gaza and end the use of hateful rhetoric toward the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference to stay vigilant “in this heightened environment.”

“There’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, and we’ve got to be on the lookout, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own,” Wray told the conference in San Diego, according to the FBI website.

Pakistani American activist Dr Shireen Bangash wrote on X, “The hate-spitting US media is directly responsible for the murder of this 6-year-old Muslim boy in Chicago.”

Photo: A billboard criticising the hate-filled media coverage of the war in Gaza that many claim contributed to the murder of 6-year-old Palestinian American Wadea Al-Fayoume was displayed outside the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, where his funeral took place on October 18. (Credit: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency)


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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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