The Oct. 14 Chicago-area stabbings of a boy and his mother that resulted in the boy’s death and critical injuries for the mother sparked condemnation from Asian American community organizations Japanese American Citizens League, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and Japanese American National Museum.
The victims were identified as 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and Hanaan Shahin. Police arrested Joseph Czuba, who was identified as the victims’ landlord. The alleged perpetrator reportedly used a military-style knife in the attack, which is being investigated as a hate crime.
Czuba, who has been identified as a member of the St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, Ill., is alleged to have targeted the boy and his mother for their national origin — Palestinian — and religious beliefs — Islam — in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks by the Islamic militant group Hamas that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Israelis, which resulted in a subsequent declaration of war by Israel on Hamas that resulted in thousands more deaths of Palestinians living in the Gaza strip.
In a statement, the National JACL said, “As war rages in the Middle East, we are reminded that as Americans, while we may have connection and affinity to our ancestral countries, we cannot hold Jewish Americans responsible for Israel’s actions as a government, nor Palestinian Americans responsible for the actions of a terrorist organization based in Palestine.
“We grieve for the thousands of innocent civilian lives lost in the Middle East, and especially for the loss of Wadea Al-Fayoume. We feel the pain of our friends from the Arab American, Palestinian American and Jewish American communities. JACL remains committed to engaging in conversations about the challenges faced by our Arab American, Palestinian American and Jewish communities, and ensuring that extremism and hate do not overtake those discussions.”
In its statement, APIAVote Executive Directory Christine Chen said, “The murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume and further attacks on his mother is horrifying, but it is not a coincidence: it is a direct result of the irresponsible and hateful rhetoric being thrown around today. Unfortunately, international conflicts are exacerbating intolerance and rancor towards innocent people based on their ethnicity and religious background – and it is having irreversible consequences.
“This type of violence is very familiar to our communities. In the years after 9/11, we saw Muslims and those mistaken as Muslim attacked, blamed and sometimes killed for the horrors committed by terrorist groups they had nothing to do with. This is no different than what we are seeing unfold today.
“It is also no different than what we witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Asians in America, especially Chinese Americans, were also attacked, blamed, and sometimes killed for the virus — when they too had nothing to do with the virus’ existence.”
JANM President and CEO Ann Burroughs also commented on the slaying and assault. “We are deeply saddened by this hateful act and by the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric that has erupted in the U.S. in the wake of the conflict in the Middle East. We grieve for the loss of life in the conflict and for the life of this child who was so brutally murdered,” she said.
“When fear and insecurity bind together, they create a dangerous poison that can inflict grave harm on individuals, heaping ongoing trauma onto communities, and etching deep wounds into humanity that fuels hate speech and violence. Hate crimes are not acceptable under any circumstances. We stand with our friends in communities across the country whose families are affected by this conflict, particularly with our friends in the Jewish American, Palestinian American, and Muslim American communities.”
Czuba has been charged with three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of committing a hate crime.