A six-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy was fatally stabbed and his mother seriously injured when their landlord entered their home with a 12-inch military knife on Saturday in Chicago.
According to the police, the family was targeted because of their Islamic beliefs and in reaction to the violence in Palestine and Israel.
“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.
According to the Council on American–Islamic Relations (Cair), a Muslim civil rights advocacy group, the landlord entered the home and proceeded to choke and stab 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin. She allegedly went into the bathroom and called 911.
When she came back out, she found her six-year-old son Wadea Al-Fayoume with a knife stuck in his tiny body, stabbed 26 times with a 12-inch serrated military knife with a seven-inch blade.In texts to her husband, she wrote that the landlord reportedly yelled “You Muslims must die!”
She remains in hospital in serious condition. Her son, who had recently turned six and loved “everyone and everything”, has died.
On Sunday, authorities arrested 71-year-old Joseph Czuba accusing him of a hate crime. He was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder in the first degree, two counts of hate crime, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Czuba, who rented the mother and son the ground floor of his building for two years, was found on Saturday “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, police said.
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At a press conference on Sunday with the boy’s family, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of Cair, Ahmed Rehab, said that while the blame lies on the murderer, it also lies on a hateful atmosphere that has been created.
“I ask all people of conscience, to what extent have we created an atmosphere in which someone who may not have committed such an act this senseless, this meaningless… to what extent was this person radicalised and brainwashed by this lopsided, one-sided atmosphere that fans the flames of hatred of Muslims and Palestinians?” he said while standing next to the boy’s father who, according to Rehab, could not find the strength to speak.
“What level of blind hatred can cause such an act?”
Israel has been bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing at least 1,300 Israelis and taking at least 100 Israelis hostage. The bombardment of Gaza has so far killed at least 2,400 Palestinians, with a large majority of them women and children, and has wounded 7,696.
But numbers are rising rapidly due to the ongoing bombing campaign and a possible ground invasion looming.
At the press conference, Rehab warned about not recreating the same atmosphere that followed the 11 September attacks in 2001, but said that he believed that is exactly where the country is headed.
“Wadea had no clue about these larger issues happening in the world, but he was made to pay for it,” Rehab said.
Acts of violence have been occurring all throughout the US in the past week. On 11 October, a group of men waving Israeli flags physically assaulted an 18-year-old Palestinian man in Brooklyn. They shouted anti-Palestinian statements before getting out of their car and punching him.
The same night, in another part of Brooklyn, two men approached two other men holding Palestinian flags, grabbed one of the flags, hit one man over the head with it and then ran away, police say. No arrests have been made.