Israel-Hamas War

Funeral Monday for Illinois Muslim boy stabbed to death in brutal hate crime

Hanaan Shahin, 32, and her 6-year-old son, Wadea Al-Fayoume, were targeted because of their Islamic faith, officials said

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Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions that could be upsetting and disturbing.

The funeral and vigil for a 6-year-old Illinois Muslim boy who was the victim of a brutal stabbing and hate crime that also left his 32-year-old mother critically injured will take place Monday.

A funeral prayer service for Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. at the Mosque Foundation located at 7360 W. 93rd St. in Bridgeview, the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. Wadea's family, along with Muslim community members and leaders, interfaith leaders and public officials are expected to attend.

A burial at Parkholm Cemetary in LaGrange will follow the service, CAIR said.

Hanaan Shahin, 32, and her 6-year-old son, Wadea Al-Fayoume, were brutally attacked and stabbed Saturday inside their Plainfield home by their by their landlord, Joseph Czuba, who is believed to have targeted them because of their Islamic faith and the Israel-Hamas war, according to authorities.

Czuba, 71, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of a hate crime, according to the Will County Sheriff's Office. Czuba is expected to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

"This is a heavy day that we hoped would never come," CAIR Executive Director Ahmed Rahab said in the release. "As they say, the smallest coffins are the heaviest. My heart and thoughts today are especially with the mother, Hanaan Shahin, who is fighting serious bodily injuries at the hospital, not to mention the mental trauma of the gore she experienced and witnessed. She will be feeling Wadea's loss more than anyone, but she is forced to mourn alone rather in the warm embrace of family and community at this time."

What We Know

At approximately 11:38 a.m. on Saturday, deputies with the sheriff's office were called to a home in the 16200 block of South Lincoln Highway near Lily Cache Road regarding a stabbing involving Czuba and a renter, according to authorities.

The renter, 32-year-old Shahin, who is Muslim, sustained over a dozen stab wounds to her body and was expected to survive the attack.

Czuba also allegedly stabbed the woman's son, Wadea, who was initially transported to the hospital in critical condition, but later died from his injuries, according to the sheriff's office. An autopsy conducted by a forensic pathologist on Sunday revealed that the boy had been stabbed 26 times throughout his body with a 12-inch military knife, authorities stated.

The landlord, who was found by responding officers on the ground near the home's driveway, was treated for a laceration and released from the hospital. He was subsequently taken to the Will County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Complex and questioned by detectives, according to police.

While Czuba didn't make any statements regarding his involvement in the attack, law enforcement were able to gather evidence, which led prosecutors to file numerous criminal charges. Detectives determined that both victims were targeted due to their Islamic faith and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, police stated.

Czuba was taken to the Will County Adult Detention Facility, where he was awaiting his initial court appearance.

The Council on American–Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, identified the mother and son as Hanaan Shahin and Wadea Al-Fayoume, who are both Palestinian-American. They resided on the ground floor of the home for two years and had no notable issues with Czuba, their landlord, according to a statement from the advocacy group.

CAIR cited text messages sent from the boy's mother in the hospital to his father, saying that the landlord "had been angry with what he was seeing in the news." Then, the landlord knocked on the mother's door, at which point he allegedly tried to choke her and attack her with a knife, according to CAIR, citing the text messages.

"I asked you, what level of hate, blind hatred, can cause such an act," CAIR Executive Director Ahmed Rahab said during a press conference Sunday. "And for us to reflect on the conditions in which such an act can occur."

Six-year-old Wadea, who had just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago, loved playing basketball and soccer, according to his father.

"He loved his family and his friends. He loved life. He was looking forward to a long, healthy prosperous life... Like your child, like my child, like any of us when we were children," Rehab said. "He has no clue about these larger issues happening in the world, but he was made to pay for it."

Youself Hannon, Wadea's paternal uncle, spoke alongside Rehab at the news conference, delivering an emotional message.

"We are not animals," he stated. "We are humans. We want people to see us as humans, to feel us as humans, to deal with us as humans, because this is what we are."

According to officials, a federal investigation into the incident has been opened by the the Chicago FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Biden, Johnson, Pritzker release statements

Both Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and President Joe Biden released statements following the attack, with Biden calling it a "horrific act of hate."

Biden's full statement can be found below:

"Jill and I were shocked and sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a six-year-old child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother in their home yesterday in Illinois.
The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace. 
This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are.  
As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred.  I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate.  We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.
We join everyone here at the White House in sending our condolences and prayers to the family, including for the mother’s recovery, and to the broader Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities."

Monday, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson released a statement.

"I am devastated by the murder of a six-year-old Palestinian American, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and the attempted murder of his mother in Plainfield, Illinois," Johnson said. "This despicable hate crime is a shameful reminder of the destructive role Islamophobia plays in our society."

Groups warn residents to be aware of hate crimes in wake of Israel-Hamas war

In a news release issued earlier this week, CAIR-Chicago reported a spike in hate calls/emails as a result of recent violence in the Middle East. The dozens of messages the organization received in recent days rivaled the amounts received following the Sept. 11 terror attacks and former President Trump's travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries, according to the group.

The Illinois State Police said on Sunday it was urging residents to be alert of potential hate crime and terrorism activity related to the Israel-Hamas war.

In a news release, the agency explained it was coordinating law enforcement activity in response to an elevated level of violence and hate crimes connected to the war. As of late Sunday, there was "no actionable intelligence" regarding any credible mass threats in Illinois.

A statement from the Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council read, "We condemn this heinous act in the strongest possible terms. Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother were attacked, and Wadea was murdered, because they are Muslim. May Wadea's memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved him and may his mother experience a full recovery."

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