Funeral Held for 6-Year-Old Victim as Mother Recovers Following Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Attack, According to Police

by Madison Thomas
hate crime

On Monday, in a Chicago suburb known for its substantial Palestinian population, mourners gathered to honor a 6-year-old Muslim boy who was the victim of a hate crime that also injured his mother. Authorities have recently shared additional information that led to the arrest of the family’s landlord for carrying out the stabbing attack on the child and his mother.

Wadea Al-Fayoume, who had just celebrated a recent birthday, passed away on Saturday after suffering multiple stab wounds in an appalling act of violence that elicited strong condemnation from local authorities as well as the federal government. Officials indicated that the family’s landlord, Joseph Czuba, harbored grievances related to the Israel-Hamas conflict and assaulted the family after the boy’s mother suggested they “pray for peace.”

In Bridgeview, home to a significant Palestinian diaspora, relatives and acquaintances commemorated Wadea as a spirited and compassionate young boy who enjoyed participating in games. His remains were conveyed in a small white coffin, occasionally covered by a Palestinian flag, through the throngs of attendees.

During the janazah, or funeral ceremony, Mosque Foundation Imam Jamal Said not only discussed Wadea’s untimely death but also touched upon the broader context of loss of life in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. “Wadea is a child and he is not the only one who has been targeted,” he stated, lamenting the ongoing tragedy of children being killed in the conflict.

Earlier on Monday, Czuba made an initial appearance in court, facing charges of murder, attempted murder, and hate crimes. The Will County Sheriff’s Office, after evaluating the case, stated that “the victims were specifically targeted by the suspect due to their Muslim faith and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and Israel.”

Responding to the charges, Czuba, a resident of Plainfield, was taken back to a jail facility in Joliet, located approximately 50 miles southwest of Chicago. A Will County judge approved a court-appointed attorney for him. The public defender’s office has yet to comment on the case.

The child’s mother, identified by relatives as Hanaan Shahin, informed authorities that she rented two rooms on the property’s first floor, while Czuba and his spouse occupied the second floor, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald. “He attacked her with a knife after she suggested praying for peace in response to his grievances about events in Jerusalem,” Fitzgerald noted.

Police found Czuba with a forehead injury, seated outside the residence on the day of the incident. Czuba’s wife, Mary, told law enforcement that her husband had withdrawn $1,000 from a bank, fearing an attack and concerned “in case the U.S. grid went down,” as stated in court documents.

In Bridgeview, the father of the young victim briefly spoke in Arabic, revealing his struggle to comprehend the tragedy that had befallen his family. “I am here as a father, not as a politician or religious scholar,” he said.

Community members recited prayers in unison near the mosque after the funeral, as the coffin was placed in a hearse. Calls like “There is no God but God” and “The martyr is beloved by God” were heard, phrases often spoken by Muslims in times of sorrow or remembrance.

At an ensuing press conference, speakers urged political figures and media outlets to exercise restraint in their discourse and coverage concerning the Israel-Hamas conflict. The atmosphere was solemn, with attendees closely listening and recording the proceedings on their phones.

Recently, both Jewish and Muslim organizations have reported an uptick in hate speech, fueled by the ongoing conflict. Several municipalities have enhanced police surveillance as a precaution.

The U.S. Justice Department has initiated a hate crime investigation into the brutal attack. President Joe Biden commented, stating that “such a dreadful act of hate has no place in America and contradicts our core principles, including the freedom from fear based on how we pray, our beliefs, and our identities.”

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News reporters Ed White in Detroit and Noreen Nasir in New York.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about hate crime

What happened to the 6-year-old Muslim boy in a Chicago suburb?

The 6-year-old Muslim boy, named Wadea Al-Fayoume, was killed in an alleged hate crime. He suffered multiple stab wounds in an attack perpetrated by the family’s landlord, Joseph Czuba. The incident occurred in a Chicago suburb known for its significant Palestinian population.

Who is charged with the crime?

Joseph Czuba, the family’s landlord, has been charged with multiple offenses, including murder, attempted murder, and hate crimes. He made his initial court appearance earlier this week.

What motivated the attack according to authorities?

Authorities indicate that the landlord, Joseph Czuba, was motivated by his grievances related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. He attacked the family after the boy’s mother suggested they “pray for peace.”

How has the community responded to the tragedy?

The community gathered for a funeral ceremony, or janazah, where Mosque Foundation Imam Jamal Said spoke not only about Wadea’s death but also about the broader loss of life due to conflicts. There have been calls for responsible rhetoric from politicians and the media regarding the Israel-Hamas war.

What is the official stance of the U.S. government on the incident?

President Joe Biden issued a statement condemning the act, saying it “has no place in America” and stands against the country’s fundamental values of freedom from fear based on religion, beliefs, and identity. The U.S. Justice Department has also initiated a hate crime investigation into the attack.

Have there been any other similar incidents reported recently?

The text mentions that both Jewish and Muslim organizations have reported an increase in hate speech in the wake of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Several cities have enhanced police patrols as a precautionary measure.

How are the boy’s mother and other family members coping?

The boy’s mother, identified by family as Hanaan Shahin, was also attacked but managed to fight off the assailant. She is recovering from her injuries. The father spoke briefly to reporters, saying he is struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

More about hate crime

  • Hate Crimes in the United States
  • Overview of the Israel-Hamas Conflict
  • Understanding Hate Crime Legislation
  • President Joe Biden’s Statements on Hate Crimes
  • Recent Reports on Anti-Muslim Attacks in the U.S.
  • Community Reactions to Hate Crimes
  • U.S. Justice Department Hate Crime Statistics

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RachelT October 17, 2023 - 12:51 am

Breaks my heart to read such news. What’s it gonna take for us to treat each other like humans?

AliQ October 17, 2023 - 1:27 am

The fact that a landlord can hold such hatred toward a family he sees everyday is just mind boggling. We’re not safe anywhere it seems.

EmilyR October 17, 2023 - 3:35 am

This community has gone through enough already. Hope justice is served. People need to wake up.

Mike87 October 17, 2023 - 7:04 am

Really hits hard, especially with children involved. We need stronger hate crime laws now.

SarahM October 17, 2023 - 8:38 am

this is beyond sad. A child lost his life and for what? Ideologies that he’s too young to even understand? smh

ChrisK October 17, 2023 - 7:36 pm

We need better mental health services, and we need em now. This isn’t just about hate, it’s about the failure of our system to identify risky ppl.

JohnDoe October 17, 2023 - 8:56 pm

Can’t believe this is happening in our own backyard. When will people learn to coexist? It’s 2023 for God’s sake.


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