Joseph Czuba, 71, appeared in court in Will County, Illinois, on Monday after being accused of fatally stabbing 6-year-old Palestinian American boy Wadea Al-Fayoume and injuring his mother, Hanan Shaheen. Czuba allegedly stabbed Al-Fayoume 26 times. The young boy’s funeral was held at a local mosque while his mother remained hospitalized.
According to prosecutors, Czuba’s wife stated that he regularly listened to conservative talk radio and became agitated over the call for a supposed “national day of jihad” on October 13. This call was a misinterpretation of a comment made by a former leader of Hamas. Czuba believed that Shaheen’s presence endangered him and his wife, leading him to carry out the attack.
Shaheen reported that Czuba began arguing with her about the war in Israel before attacking her with a knife. She managed to lock herself in the bathroom and call 911. Al-Fayoume, described as a playful child who enjoyed Legos and swimming, was tragically killed in the attack.
Czuba, who has no prior criminal convictions, was represented by public defender Kylie Blatti in court. Muslim and Palestinian advocates have condemned the rise in Islamophobic rhetoric following the Hamas attack and Israel’s actions in Gaza. They argue that such rhetoric played a role in Al-Fayoume’s killing.
The misinterpretation of a “global day of jihad” spread across far-right forums and social media platforms, with some users making derogatory remarks towards Muslims and advocating for violence. Conservative figures, including Republican members of Congress and certain media hosts, amplified this message. However, no organized global protest or action took place as feared.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called for an end to dehumanizing anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian rhetoric. They welcome the federal hate crime investigation into the case.