Several mourners gathered outside Chicago on Monday for the funeral of Wadea Al-Fayoume, the 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was stabbed to death in his home Saturday during an anti-Muslim hate crime.
Peaceful demonstrations in honor of the child are occurring across the country with social media posts raising awareness of the consequences associated with false narratives that spread Islamophobia in the U.S.
Muslim Americans across the country are being targeted as a result of fear and propaganda spread in regard to the situation in Gaza and Israel. Many feel as though the current situation is similar to that of the aftermath of Sept. 11.
The first incident to make the news was Al-Fayoume’s story.
Joseph Czuba stabbed Al-Fayoume and his mother in Plainfield, Illinois Saturday morning all because they are Muslim, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday.
The Will County stabbing and hate crime suspect wanted to kick the mother and son duo out of their home following the Israel-Gaza conflict, prosecutors said.
The child was fatally stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife, officials said. His mother, who was stabbed 12 times, remains in the hospital.
“What we have is a murdered Palestinian child by someone who is radicalized by the environment in which we live right now, that casts Palestinians as human animals,” said Ahmed Rehab, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago.
“This person had no track record with the family. As a matter of fact, the father says he had built a treehouse for the boy, and allowed him to swim in a makeshift pool and brought him toys.”
Czuba, 71, has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of committing a hate crime.
The boy’s father was too shaken to speak but joined Muslim faith leaders during a press conference, during which they said this hate crime is every Palestinian American’s biggest fear.
“He was a lovely boy who loved his family his friends. He loved soccer, basketball, and he paid the price for the atmosphere of hate,” Rehab said.
The family said the boy’s 32-year-old mother left the West Bank to come to the U.S. 12 years ago, in hopes of avoiding the violence that continues today overseas.
In announcing the charges, the Will County Sheriff’s Office called the crime “senseless” and “cowardly,” saying, in part, “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.”
The Council on Arab American Relations in Chicago described text messages sent to the family including one threatening them.
“He knocked on the door and that he attempted to choke her, and said, ‘you Muslims must die,’ and attempted to stab her, and stabbed her. And, she went to the bathroom and called 911. And, this was all in her own words,” Rehab said.
While in serious condition, the mother is expected to survive, the sheriff’s office said.
Investigators said Czuba, who is an Air Force veteran, has not provided a statement to police, but they believe they have enough physical evidence, as well as witness statements to back up the charges filed.
He is being held at the Will County Adult Detention facility and was in court Monday morning.
Prosecutors in court said Czuba confronted Al-Fayoume’s mother over what was going on in the Middle East, and then an argument turned physical.