Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden spoke to the family of Wadea Al-Fayoume, the six-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was stabbed to death in Illinois amid escalating tensions over the Middle Eastern conflict. The call followed the president’s address to the nation on Thursday.
According to the White House, the Bidens expressed their “deepest condolences” and said they were praying for the recovery of Wadea’s mother, Hannan Shahin, who was also injured in the vicious attack.
On Monday, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, the family’s landlord, made his first court appearance on murder, attempted murder and hate crime charges. He is accused of stabbing the youngster 26 times and his mother a dozen times.
In his Thursday speech, Mr Biden made reference to the Al-Fayoumes as a “proud Palestinian-American family” and said the US must “without equivocation” denounce both antisemitism and Islamophobia. “We cannot stand by and stand silent,” he said.
The president used his Oval Office address, which came less than a day after returning from a visit to Israel, to “discuss our response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine.”
“I know many of you in the Muslim-American community, the Arab-American community, the Palestinian-American community and so many others are outraged and hardy, saying to yourself ‘here we go again’, with the Islamophobia and distrust we saw after 9/11,” he said.
“Just last week, a mother was brutally stabbed. A little boy here in the United States, a little boy who just turned six-years-old was murdered in their home outside of Chicago. His name was Wadea — a proud American, a proud Palestinian-American family.
“We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens. We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia. And all you hurting, I want you to know I see you, you belong. And I want to say this to you. You’re all American.”
In a statement following the speech, the White House said the Bidens had spoken to Wadea’s father and uncle.
“The President and First Lady expressed their deepest condolences to the Al-Fayoume family as they mourn; their prayers that Wadea’s mother, Hannan Shahin, makes a full recovery; and their commitment to keep speaking out against anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim hate and violence.” the statement read.
Crowds of mourners in the heavily Palestinian Chicago suburb of Bridgeview paid respects Monday as Wadea was buried. A Tuesday evening vigil was planned at a community center in a nearby suburb.
During funeral services, family and friends remembered Wadea as an energetic boy who loved playing games. The child, who recently celebrated his sixth birthday, was also seen as another innocent casualty in the escalating war.
Wadea’s mother told investigators into the incident that she rented two rooms on the first floor of the Plainfield home while Czuba and his wife lived on the second floor. She fought Czuba off and went into a bathroom where she stayed until police arrived. Wadea, meanwhile, was in his own room, according to a court filing from Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald.
The boy’s killing prompted fresh concerns in Muslim circles about Islamophobia and being forgotten in war coverage.
At a news conference before Wadea’s funeral, speakers called for politicians and media to be responsible with their comments and coverage of the war. In recent days, Jewish and Muslim groups have reported an increase of hateful rhetoric in the wake of the war. Several cities have stepped up police patrols.
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