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'We are not animals...', says uncle of 6-year-old boy who was killed because of his Palestinian Muslim faith

The police said that the mother of the 6-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy had called the emergency number to report that her landlord had attacked her with a knife, and added she then ran into a bathroom and continued to fight him off.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Updated on: October 16, 2023 12:01 IST
Accused Joseph M. Czuba (L) father of the victim (R).
Image Source : AP Accused Joseph M. Czuba (L) father of the victim (R).

A 71-year-old Illinois man fatally stabbed a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounded his 32-year-old mother on Sunday, which US President Joe Biden called a "heinous hate crime" and said, "This act of hate against a Palestinian Muslim family has no place in America." 

"Jill and I were sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother yesterday in Illinois. Our condolences and prayers are with the family," President Biden wrote on the social media platform.

"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," he added.

Islamophobic sentiments soared in America: FBI

According to the Police, the accused singled out the victims because of their Islamic faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas. In recent days, police in US cities and federal authorities have been on high alert for violence driven by antisemitic or Islamophobic sentiments. FBI officials, along with Jewish and Muslim groups, have reported an increase in hateful and threatening rhetoric.

In the Chicago-area case, officers found the woman and boy late on Saturday morning at a home in an unincorporated area of Plainfield Township, 65 kilometres southwest of Chicago, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on social media.

The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. The woman had multiple stab wounds and was expected to survive, according to the statement. An autopsy on the child showed he had been stabbed dozens of times. "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 statement said.

According to the Will County sheriff’s office, the woman had called 911 to report that her landlord had attacked her with a knife, adding she then ran into a bathroom and continued to fight him off.

The man suspected in the attack was found outside the home and “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.

Joseph M Czuba of Plainfield was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the sheriff’s office. He was in custody on Sunday and awaiting a court appearance.

“We are not animals, we are humans"

Authorities did not release the names of the two victims. But the boy’s paternal uncle, Yousef Hannon, spoke at a news conference hosted by the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. There the boy was identified as Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy who had recently turned 6. The organization identified the other victim as the boy’s mother.

“We are not animals, we are humans. We want people to see us as humans, to feel us as humans, to deal with us as humans, because this is what we are,” said Hannon, a Palestinian-American who emigrated to the US in 1999 to work, including as a public school teacher.

The Muslim civil liberties organization called the crime “our worst nightmare,” and part of a disturbing spike in hate calls and emails since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. The group cited text messages exchanged among family members that showed the attacker had made disparaging remarks about Muslims. “Palestinians basically, again, with their hearts broken over what’s happening to their people,” said Ahmed Rehab, the group’s executive director, “have to also worry about the immediate safety of life and limb living here in this most free of democracies in the world.”

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: 'Biggest mistake if Israeli military attempts to recapture Gaza', Biden warns Netanyahu

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