A landlord in Chicago stabbed a six year old Palestinian boy to death and seriously wounded his mother last night in a horrific attack motivated by their Islamic faith and the Israel-Palestine conflict, say local police.
Joseph Czuba, 71, was heard to have yelled: “You Muslims must die” before launching the attack.
The Will County’s Sheriff’s Office later issued a statement saying that based on a forensic pathologist’s examination, the boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed 26 times throughout his body.
“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 statement posted to social media.
His 32-year-old mother, Hanaan Shahin, suffered over a dozen stab wounds. She is recovering and is expected to survive.
The attacker, Joseph Czuba, 71, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of a hate crime, said the sheriff’s office.
The mother and her son had lived on the ground floor of Czuba’s house for two years with no previous notable issues.
According to written text messages reportedly sent to the father of the boy by the mother from the hospital and shared with CAIR-Chicago, the landlord, who had been angry with what he was seeing in the news, knocked on their door, and when she opened, he tried to choke her and proceeded to attack her with a knife, yelling “you Muslims must die!”
When she ran into the bathroom to call 911, she came out to find that he had stabbed her six-year-old son to death. “It all happened in seconds,” she texted.
“Our hearts are heavy, and our prayers are with the darling boy and his mother,” said Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director. “As we await the official investigation of the local authorities, what we can confirm at the moment is that we have a murdered child in his own home, a six-year who had just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago, and a mother lying in the hospital in serious condition, both stabbed over a dozen times. And we have testimony from the mother as to the harrowing moments that unfolded in terms of what was done and said – and it is our worst nightmare.
“We have full confidence in the authorities to investigate this heinous incident as a hate crime and to do so swiftly.”
Rehab warned: “[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.”
CAIR-Chicago is renewing its call for responsible leadership and balanced media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. “This unthinkable senseless crime did not happen in a vacuum,” Rehab added.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday denounced the murder.
“(First lady) Jill and I were shocked and sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a six-year-old child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother in their home yesterday in Illinois,” said Biden in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Biden urged Americans to unite against Islamophobia in the wake of the killing.
“As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone,” he said.
“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.”
“The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” he added.