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US Civil Rights Body Calls for Hate Crime Charge for ‘You Muslims Must Die’ Killing of Palestinian-American Child

CHICAGO, IL, October 16, 2023: The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), America’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Sunday decried the reported stabbing to death of a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy and the stabbing of his mother as “our worst nightmare.”

CAIR-Chicago is expressing full confidence that local authorities would investigate and prosecute this attack as a hate crime. It is again calling on officials and broadcasters to reconsider fanning an atmosphere of hate and de-humanization, not seen since the aftermath of 9/11 which puts communities at certain risk.

The mother, Hanaan Shahin, and her son Wadea Al-Fayoume had lived on the ground floor of the house for two years with no previous notable issues with the landlord, reported as 71-year-old Joseph Czuba.

According to written text messages reportedly sent to the father of the boy by the mother from the hospital and shared with 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 he had stabbed her six-year-old son to death. “It all happened in seconds,” she texted.

Previous media stories erroneously reported that he is eight while the family says the child was six-year-old.

“Our hearts are heavy, and our prayers are with the darling boy and his mother,” said Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director. “As we await the official investigation of the local authorities, what we can confirm at the moment is that we have a murdered child in his own home, a six-year who had just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago, and a mother lying in the hospital in serious condition, both stabbed over a dozen times. And we have testimony from the mother as to the harrowing moments that unfolded in terms of what was done and said – and it is our worst nightmare.

“We have full confidence in the authorities to investigate this heinous incident as a hate crime and to do so swiftly.”

The organisation said the 71-year-old suspect is in custody and now charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of committing a hate crime and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

“In a press release issued October 11th, Rehab warned: “[One-sided] statements issued by public officials and one-sided reporting by the media has [helped] create [a] lop-sided atmosphere in which members of our community are essentially sitting ducks. This is doubly concerning because we had come to believe that we had learned the hard lessons from the darkest days of flippant Islamophobia in the years after 9/11 where the lack of balanced leadership of our elected leaders, and the irresponsible and biased reporting by the media directly contributed to hanging our communities out to dry.”

CAIR-Chicago is renewing its call for responsible leadership and balanced media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. “This unthinkable senseless crime did not happen in a vacuum,” Rehab warned again.

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