On Saturday 14 October, Wadea Al-Fayoume – a Palestinian-American child – was stabbed 26 times by his landlord. The six-year-old boy later died in hospital. His 32-year-old mother was also wounded, but is expected to survive, the Will County sheriff’s office in Illinois said in a statement. Authorities charged the assailant with murder and hate crimes on 15 October. The killer was named by the sheriff’s office as 71-year-old Joseph Czuba. Days before, a civil rights group had warned US Muslims were “sitting ducks”.
Hate crime charges
As CNN reported:
Authorities were called to the residence in unincorporated Plainfield Township, roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago, shortly before noon Saturday after a woman called 911 saying her landlord had attacked her, according to the sheriff’s office.
When police arrived they found Czuba sitting on the ground near the driveway of the residence with a laceration on his forehead. He was taken to hospital for treatment before being charged with murder, attempted murder, and two counts of hate crimes.
Authorities said the woman managed to call 911 as she fought off the landlord. The sheriff’s statement announced that:
Deputies located two victims inside the residence in a bedroom. Both victims had multiple stab wounds to their chest, torso, and upper extremities.
A serrated military-style knife with a seven-inch blade was pulled from the boy’s abdomen during the autopsy.
The attack itself was allegedly motivated by the war between Israel and Hamas. The sheriff’s office stated that:
Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.
Ahmed Rehab, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago office, told reporters that:
He knocked on the door and attempted to choke her, and said, ‘you Muslims’ must die.
Rehad cited text messages sent by the woman to the murdered boy’s father from her hospital bed.
US president Joe Biden, in a statement issued late on 15 October, said that the:
Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek – a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace.
This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values.
He also called for Americans to “come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred”.
Not one week before the attack, back on 11 October, civil rights organisation CAIR said in a statement that:
[One-sided] statements issued by public officials and one-sided reporting by the media has [helped] create [a] lop-sided atmosphere in which members of our community are essentially sitting ducks. This is doubly concerning because we had come to believe that we had learned the hard lessons from the darkest days of flippant Islamophobia in the years after 9/11 where the lack of balanced leadership of our elected leaders, and the irresponsible and biased reporting by the media directly contributed to hanging our communities out to dry.
The FBI stated on 15 October that there had been a rise in reported threats since Hamas launched its attack more than a week ago. The majority were not considered credible, according to a senior FBI official, but Muslim and Jewish institutions have been targeted.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse.
Featured image via Reuters – screengrab