On Saturday, a 71-year-old Illinois man fatally stabbed a 6-year-old boy and seriously wounded his 32-year-old mother, targeting the pair for their Muslim faith amid the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas, according to police.
The boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed 26 times and pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the sheriff’s office. His mother was also stabbed several times but is expected to recover.
The suspect, Joseph M. Czuba, was 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.
The Justice Department announced Sunday night that it has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the events leading to the death of Al-Fayoume and the injuries suffered by his mother. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he was “heartbroken by the abhorrent killing.”
Following the start of the war, police in U.S. cities and federal authorities have been on high alert for violence driven by antisemitic or Islamophobic sentiments. DOJ said the incident “cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.”
Illinois lawmakers also expressed condolences and condemned the killing late Sunday night. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker called the killing “nothing short of evil.”
“Every individual deserves to feel secure in their community, their school, their grocery store, their mosque, synagogue, temple, or church,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “But these hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. We must all stand united and speak out against hate.”
“I’m disgusted by this horrific violent hate crime that targeted an innocent Illinois mother and child because they are Muslim,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said on X. “I condemn the barbaric, cold-blooded murder of six year old Wadea Al-Fayoume and hope the bigoted attacker is brought to justice.”