Illinois man charged with hate crimes in stabbing death of Muslim boy

October 16, 2023

A Chicago-area landlord was arrested and charged with murder and hate crimes following the stabbing death of a 6-year-old boy and the wounding of his mother, allegedly because they’re Muslim.

Joseph M. Czuba, 71, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of a hate crime and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the Will County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also opened a federal hate crime investigation, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying in a statement, “I am heartbroken by the abhorrent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six year old child who died after being stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife. On behalf of the entire Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his community as they grieve his loss.”

Garland added, “This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence. The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country. We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from.”

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden further said in a statement Sunday that they were “shocked and sickened” by the attack. 

“Jill and I were sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother yesterday in Illinois. Our condolences and prayers are with the family,” Biden wrote on social media.

He added, “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.”

The Will County Sheriff’s Office said Czuba did not make a statement to detectives but investigators determined the victims 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 office also stated that the boy’s 32-year-old mother, Hanaan Shahin sustained more than a dozen stab wounds, was recovering at a hospital and is expected to survive.

According to CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) in Chicago, Shahin and Al-Fayoume had lived on the ground floor of Czuba’s house for two years with no previous notable issues.

PHOTO Source: CAIR Chicago media handout

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