Crowds of mourners gathered in Bridgeview, Illinois, to pay their respects to 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was killed in an alleged hate crime. The boy and his mother were attacked by their landlord, Joseph Czuba, who was reportedly upset over the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis. The incident occurred after the boy’s mother proposed they “pray for peace.”
During the funeral service, Mosque Foundation Imam Jamal Said reflected on the boy’s death and the wider loss of life in the Israel-Hamas war. Wadea was remembered as an energetic and playful boy who loved playing games. His body was carried in a small white casket, at times draped with a Palestinian flag, through the packed crowds.
Earlier, Czuba made his first court appearance on murder, attempted murder, and hate crime charges. The Will County Sheriff’s Office stated that both victims were targeted due to their Muslim identity and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict. Czuba’s wife, Mary, told police that her husband feared an attack by people of Middle Eastern descent and had withdrawn $1,000 from a bank “in case the U.S. grid went down.”
The boy’s father, speaking to reporters in Arabic, expressed his grief and hoped for a resolution to the conflict in his homeland. Community members chanted prayers outside the mosque, calling for responsible rhetoric and media coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.
The Justice Department has opened a hate crime investigation into the attack. President Joe Biden condemned the incident, stating that it goes against America’s fundamental values.