Monday, October 16, 2023
Web Desk

Six-year-old Palestinian-American killed in Islamophobic attack in US

Sheriff's Office says detectives determined brutal attack was result of ongoing war between Israel and Hamas

Web Desk
Wadea al-Fayoume celebrates his birthday at his home in Illinois, neighbourhood of Plainfield in Chicago,US. — BBC
Wadea al-Fayoume celebrates his birthday at his home in Illinois, neighbourhood of Plainfield in Chicago,US. — BBC

  • Joseph Czuba has been charged with murder and hate crimes.
  • Czuba also charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder.
  • President Biden says he and his wife were "sickened" by attack.

An innocent Palestinian-American boy was killed and his mother was injured after they were stabbed by their landlord in the state of Illinois on Saturday morning because they were Muslims.

The 71-year-old man named Joseph Czuba has been charged with murder and hate crimes after allegedly stabbing a six-year-old boy, and his 32-year-old mother, in Plainfield, Illinois because they were Muslims.

The mother and her son were targeted because of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, the Will County Sheriff's Office said.

President Biden took to X, formerly known as Twitter, saying he and his wife, Jill Biden, were "sickened" by the attack on the mother and her son.

"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," Biden said in a statement.

"As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred."

Czuba was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, hate crimes and aggravated battery.

In Sunday's statement, the Will County Sheriff's Office said that on Saturday morning it received an emergency call from the woman who said she was being attacked by her landlord in Plainfield, near Chicago.

The woman said she "ran into the bathroom and continued to fight off her attacker".

When officers arrived at the scene they discovered the woman and the boy with "multiple stab wounds to their chest, torso, and upper extremities".

Both victims were taken to hospital, but the boy who was later found to be stabbed 26 times, died at the hospital while his seriously-injured mother is expected to survive the attack.

"The knife used in this attack is a 12-inch (31cm) serrated military-style knife that has a seven-inch blade," the Sheriff's office said.

According to the statement, police had found Czuba "sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence" and was taken to hospital for treatment before being questioned by detectives.

"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," the Sheriff's office added.

While the police did not publicly release the names of the victims, the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), America's rights group, identified the boy Wadea al-Fayoume, and his mother Hanaan Shahinat, at a news briefing later on Sunday.

It said Wadea was born in the US, while his mother — originally from Beitunia in the West Bank — came to the country 12 years ago.

CAIR-Chicago executive director Ahmed Rehab said Wadea had only celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago.

"He loved his family, his friends. He loved soccer, he loved basketball. 

"And he 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.

"And we warned about not recreating the same mistake we had in the post 9/11 environment," Rehab said, adding that back then innocent members of a particular community had been victimised by the deadly attacks in the US in 2001.

In Gaza, the death toll for Palestinians has crossed 2,300 Palestinians killed and over 9,000 have been wounded, while in the West Bank, 54 were recorded dead and 1,100 wounded since the conflict between Hamas and Israel started on October 7.