The October 7 attack by Hamas militants left more than 1300 Israelis, mostly civilian men, women and children, dead, inviting worldwide condemnation of Hamas, which the US has designated a terrorist organization. Israel is running a bloody bombing campaign in Gaza that is taking a heavy toll on civilians. Media reports say Israeli bombing has killed almost 2,500 Palestinians, including more than 700 children.
BREAKING IN CHICAGO: This is 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume. He was stabbed to death by his landlord who was yelling “you Muslims must die!” when he went to the downstairs unit and attacked Wadea and his mother.
— Ari Bloomekatz 🔥 (@bloomekatz) October 15, 2023
The suspected attacker, 71-year-old Joseph M. Czuba, was landlord of the victims’ residence, located at 16200 block of South Lincoln Highway near Lily Cache Road in Will County.
According to ABC7 Chicago, the incident happened just before 11:40 a.m. in Plainfield neighborhood on Saturday. A 32-year-old woman called 911, saying her landlord had attacked her with a knife. The caller said she ran to the bathroom and tried to fight the attacker off.
According to written text messages reportedly sent to the father of the boy by the mother from the hospital and shared with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Chicago, the landlord who had been angry with what he was seeing in the news, knocked on their door, and when she opened, he tried to choke her and proceeded to attack her with a knife, yelling: “you Muslims must die!” When she ran into the bathroom to call 911, she came out to find that the attacker had stabbed her six-year-old son to death. “It all happened in seconds,” CAIR quoted her text message as saying.
“When Will County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Plainfield Police Department officers arrived, they found the 71-year-old suspect, Joseph M. Czuba, sitting upright on the ground, near the home’s driveway. He had a cut on his forehead, and was later transported to a local hospital,” ABC7 report added.
Deputies then found two victims inside a bedroom. They each had suffered several dozen stab wounds to their chest, torso and arms. The child, stabbed 26 times, was transported in critical condition to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, the sheriff’s office said. The woman was hospitalized in serious condition, and is expected to survive.
“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the sheriff’s department said.
Police found a knife on the crime scene, and Czuba was treated and released from a local hospital before being transported to the Will County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Complex for questioning.
Czuba has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two hate crime counts and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
CAIR identified the boy as 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume. The organization held a press conference Sunday afternoon with the boy’s father, uncle and other family members.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the CAIR-Chicago, said harmful and “one-sided” rhetoric from the media has intensified prejudice and led to violence.
The mother and child were both Palestinian Americans, Rehab said. The mother has been in the U.S. for 12 years, and the boy was born in the country. Rehab said the boy loved basketball and soccer and his friends.
Yousef Hannon, the boy’s uncle and a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, decried the anti-Islamic attitudes since last week’s attack. “It hurts me every day,” Chicago Sun Times quoted him as saying.
Illinois State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (D-District 21), who attended the press conference, said: “It really breaks my heart to have to be here today to mourn the death of a 6-year-old boy. This was directly connected to the dehumanization of Palestinians. … I know there’s gonna be people who say we condemn this heinous crime, who say hate has no home here. That is not enough.
“If we want to see these attacks stopped here in Illinois and all over the country … we have to call out not just this heinous crime and others that may occur but call for a cease fire, deescalation and peace.”
Protests and vigils in support of both Palestinians and Israelis have been held across the United States and in different cities around the world in recent days. Critics here in the US are accusing the mainstream media of “dehumanizing” the ongoing conflict through its biased reporting. “American media must take the blame,” wrote Ashok Swain, a Swedish academic, on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, while referring to the heart-wrenching incident.
Near Chicago, a 71 yr old landlord stabbed a 6 year old Palestinian boy to death and seriously injured his 32 year old mother. American media must take the blame for their biased coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict and starting this hate crime.
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) October 15, 2023
Another Washington-based writer and political analyst Yousef Muunayyer, a Palestinian-American, also took to X and posted: “The widespread hyper-dehumanization of Palestinians that is happening now from the American officials and in American media is the stuff that makes genocides so much more likely…”
URGENT: The widespread hyper-dehumanization of Palestinians that is happening now from American officials and in American media is the stuff that makes genocides so much more likely. These create conditions for mass atrocities.
— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) October 11, 2023
Social media has been abuzz with reports of partiality at the country’s major media houses, including MSNBC which has been accused of taking off air three Muslim TV anchors.
Semafor, a global news website, and a leading Saudi daily Arab News, reported that MSNBC suspended the shows of three Muslim anchors Mehdi Hasan, Ayman Mohieddine and Ali Velshi who were “quietly taken out of the anchor’s chair since Hamas’ attack on Israel.”
The mainstream media’s one-sided coverage has increased a sense of insecurity amongst American Muslims, who have already been facing an increasing wave of Islamophobia. “Media’s deliberate effort to dehumanize the situation can encourage extremists inn other communities to take the extreme action,” said Zain Ali, a Jackson Heights-based Muslim community activist.
The growing unease within the Muslim community is now becoming part of public discourse. Sadaf Jaffer, a Pakistani-American and one of the two Muslim members of New Jersey State Assembly, advised the community to check on their neighbors as “we are not okay”, pointing at the growing insecurity within the Muslim communities, especially those of Palestine origin.
Check on your Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim friends. We are not okay.
— NJ Asw. Sadaf Jaffer (@sadafjaffer) October 15, 2023