Father of boy killed in anti-Muslim hate attack says he hopes son’s death ‘wakes us up’

Wadea was stabbed 26 times at the family’s home in Plainfield Township, outside Chicago, on Saturday morning, and his mother over a dozen times

Andrea Cavallier
Tuesday 17 October 2023 00:41 BST
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Family of boy killed in anti-Muslim hate crime calls on Biden to apologize for spreading misinformation

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The father of a 6-year-old Muslim boy stabbed and killed in an attack by a man radicalized by right-wing radio reports about Israel-Hamas said he hopes his son’s murder “wakes us up.”

“I’m here as the father of the boy, not as a politician or religious scholar,” Odey Al-Fayoume, the father of Wadea Al-Fayoume, said in a speech in Arabic outside his son’s funeral. “I’m here as the father of a boy whose rights were violated.”

Wadea was stabbed 26 times at the family’s home in Plainfield Township, outside Chicago, on Saturday morning, exactly a week after the conflict overseas erupted.

“The issue of Hamas and Gaza is an issue of people, not countries,” Mr Al-Fayoume said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m too small to comment on it, and I hope my son becomes a bullet that solves this issue.”

The Palestinian-American boy’s mother, 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed more than 12 times and remains hospitalised.

The family’s landlord, Joseph Czuba, 71, of Plainfield, was charged with a hate crime after police and relatives said he singled out the victims because of their faith and as a response to conservative radio news stories he’d heard about the war between Israel and Hamas.

“As Muslim people, they say we’re criminals and terrorists, while Israeli people are heroes,”  Mr Al-Fayoume said. “I just want them to explain how a man stays away from the father and approaches the mother who is a daughter of Palestine. He couldn’t take her down, she disfigured his face, so he brought a knife and took vengeance on the boy. If this is the level they’re at, then we’re truly animals because we allow things like this to happen.”

Hundreds gathered at the Mosque Foundation on Monday afternoon to pray over the child’s coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag.

Wadea Al-Fayoume
Wadea Al-Fayoume (via REUTERS)

“I just want to tell the whole world that we live in a country called the USA. We’re not in war and we’re not bringing war here, too,” the boy’s uncle said before the prayers were held.

The uncle, who said he was more like a grandfather to the boy who loved soccer, Legos and swimming, called on the president to apologize after first saying he had seen photos of Israeli babies beheaded by Hamas.

“Our president needs to come out and say something,” he said. “We are not in a war.”

Unverified claims about the beheading of Israeli children and rape of hostages by Hamas have spread rapidly on social media in the days following the attack in Israel.

The White House walked back the president’s claim last week, but several of the speakers at the boy’s funeral demanded an apology directly from Biden himself.

Several people at the funeral waved Palestinian flags and many chanted “Free Palestine.” Others walked by the line of TV cameras and yelled at the media to “go home” and to “stop inciting violence and hatred.”

Wadea Al-Fayoume’s father is embraced during a press conference on Sunday.
Wadea Al-Fayoume’s father is embraced during a press conference on Sunday. (2023 Sun Times)

CAIR-Chicago claims that the mother sent the boy’s father text messages, alleging that the suspect shouted “You Muslims must die” ahead of the stabbing.

The suspect was found outside the home following the stabbing “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.

He is 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.

CAIR-Chicago called the incident “our worst nightmare” and says they have seen a spike in hate calls and emails since the violence in the Middle East broke out on 7 October.

“What we have is a murdered Palestinian child by someone who is radicalized by the environment in which we live right now, that casts Palestinians as human animals,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago told reporters on Sunday.

Mr Rehab spoke again at the funeral on Monday.

“This was an attack on all of us. We were all stabbed that day,” he said, and then asked everyone, no matter their religion, “to commit to a basic level of respect for all humanity.”

Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, began his speech outside Wadea’s funeral with a quote from the mother of Emmet Till.

“Since the mother of Wadea is not here, we say on her behalf, ‘Let the world see what they have done to the boy’,” he said.

Suleiman said that mourning Wade is mourning all Palestinian children who have been killed in the multi-decade conflict.

“Every single Palestinian child looks like Wadea. That every single child is just as beautiful, has just as much a right to be mourned,” he said. ”When we condemn the hate that killed Wadea, we are condemning the hate that has killed all of those children.”

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