Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday afternoon that the Justice Department has launched a federal hate crime investigation into the brutal killing of a six-year-old Palestinian American boy in Illinois.
“I am heartbroken by the abhorrent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six year old child who died after being stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife. On behalf of the entire Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his community as they grieve his loss,” Garland said in a statement.
“The Justice Department has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the events leading to the tragic death of Wadea Al-Fayoume and the serious injuries suffered by his mother, Hanaan Shahin. The Department is limited in what more it can say because this is an ongoing criminal investigation,” he continued.
As my colleague David Kurtz noted in Morning Memo today, the child was pronounced dead at the hospital Saturday after he was stabbed 26 times with a serrated military-style knife, in an attack allegedly carried out by his 71-year-old landlord Joseph Czuba, who was arrested and charges with several criminal offenses.
“Joseph Czuba was charged with First Degree Murder, Attempted First Degree Murder, Hate Crime (2 counts), and Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Sunday. “Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”
Police also said that Czuba stabbed the boy’s mother, Shahin, repeatedly. She remains hospitalized in serious condition.
Shahin reportedly texted her son’s father while en route to the hospital, telling him that Czuba shouted, “You Muslims must die!” during the attack, according to CAIR Chicago, a Muslim civil rights organization based in Chicago.
“This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence. The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country,” Garland said in his statement announcing the investigation. “We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from.”
President Joe Biden has also weighed in on the brutal killing, saying he was “shocked and sickened” by the news as he denounced Islamophobia and “all forms of bigotry and hatred.”
“The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace.
“This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are.”
This news all comes against the backdrop of Donald Trump doubling down on his anti-Muslim rhetoric, vowing on Monday to bring back his administration’s Islamophobic immigration policies if he wins the 2024 election.
In a speech in Iowa this afternoon, Trump claimed to a crowd of supporters that the Hamas attack in Israel would not have happened if he were president and said he would bring back his racist 2017-era ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries.
“Under my leadership, the world’s thugs, villains, killers, and savages were in retreat and running scared—all because you had a president who stood up for America, who stood up for Israel, and who stood up for Judeo-Christian civilization,” he said.
“We aren’t bringing in anyone from Gaza or Syria or Somalia or Yemen, or Libya, or anywhere else that threatens our security.”
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