6-year-old Palestinian American boy is killed in anti-Muslim attack in Illinois, authorities say

A 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death in his home by his landlord in Illinois, who also critically wounded the boy’s mother in an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime, police said Sunday, calling it a “senseless and cowardly act of violence.”

“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 Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume.Courtesy Hela Yousef

The sheriff’s office didn’t provide more corroboration, but it said that “despite the suspect not providing a statement to detectives, personnel were able to gather enough information through interviews and evidence” to charge him with two hate crimes.

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

He added, “We join everyone here at the White House in sending our condolences and prayers to the family, including for the mother’s recovery, and to the broader Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities.”

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The boy was stabbed 26 times at his Plainfield home by his landlord, Joseph Czuba, 71, investigators said. He died at the hospital.

His mother, 32, was stabbed more than a dozen times, authorities said, adding that she is at a hospital and is expected to survive.

“The female victim stated that she ran into the bathroom and continued to fight off her attacker as she dialed 911,” the sheriff’s office said.

State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid embraces Oday Al-Fayoume, father of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, at the Muslim Community Center on Chicago's Northwest Side on Sunday.
State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid embraces Oday Al-Fayoume, father of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, at the Muslim Community Center on Chicago’s Northwest Side on Sunday.Jim Vondruska / AP

Both the boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and his mother were found in a bedroom when sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene.

Czuba is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of committing a hate crime. He did not “make any statements to detectives regarding his involvement in this heinous attack,” the sheriff’s office said.

It was not clear whether he had legal counsel. The county public defender’s office and district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wadea loved soccer and basketball, and he had just celebrated his sixth birthday, Ahmed Rehab, the president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a news conference Sunday.

“And he paid the price for the atmosphere of hate and otherization and dehumanization that, frankly, I think we are seeing here in the United States,” Rehab said. 

CAIR said the boy’s mother, Hanaan Shahin, shared text messages with the organization that she had sent the boy’s father from the hospital, detailing 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 and allegedly yelled “you Muslims must die,” Rehab said.

Rehab said the mother and son had lived in the ground floor unit of the home for two years and had a cordial relationship with the landlord in the past. 

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

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

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

The father, Odai Al-Fayoume, spoke briefly in Arabic at the Sunday news conference, saying “Gratitude to God in any situation” and that he wants to “bring accountability” for his young son’s death. 

Al-Fayoume said in an interview that aired on NBC’s “TODAY” Show Monday: “It’s like a dream. I still didn’t believe my son is gone.”

The Department of Justice announced Sunday that it opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the attack, warning the incident may “further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.” 

Attorney General Merrick Garland said: “I am heartbroken by the abhorrent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six year old child who died after being stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife. On behalf of the entire Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his community as they grieve his loss.”

Tom Namako contributed reporting. 

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/6-year-old-boy-killed-anti-muslim-attack-illinois-police-say-rcna120543 6-year-old Palestinian American boy is killed in anti-Muslim attack in Illinois, authorities say

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