CHICAGO — An emotional Monday morning in Bridgeview during the funeral service for 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was brutally stabbed to death over the weekend due to his Muslim faith.
“I have seen children torn to pieces from war. I never thought I would see this in America,” Dr. Abdul Gany Hamadeh of Council of Islamic Organizations Greater Chicago said.
Mosque Foundation Imam Jamal Said reflected on the boy’s death during the janazah, or funeral service, but also the wider loss of life in the war between Israel and Hamas.
In Bridgeview, which is home to a large and established Palestinian community, family and friends remembered Wadea as a kind and energetic boy who loved playing games. His body was carried in a small white casket — which was at times draped with a Palestinian flag — through packed crowds.
“Wadea is a child and he is not the only one under attack,” he said, adding many “children are being slaughtered literally in the Holy Land, unfortunately, which is very sad.”
The boy’s father briefly spoke to reporters in Arabic, saying he was trying to make sense of what happened to his son and the boy’s mother. He hoped it would be a “bullet to solve the issue” in his homeland.
“I’m here as the father of the boy, not as a politician or religious scholar. I’m here as the father of a boy whose rights were violated,” he said.
Community members chanted prayers in unison outside the mosque following the janazah as leaders transported the casket into a hearse. “There is no God, but God,” “The martyr is beloved by God” and “God is greatest,” they chanted, calls many Muslims recite in moments of grief, distress or remembrance.
According to the Will County Sheriff’s Office, authorities responded to the 16200 block of South Lincoln Highway in unincorporated Plainfield Township on reports of a woman being attacked by her landlord with a knife just after 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
71-year-old Joseph Czuba allegedly attacked Hanaan Shahin, 32, with a large blade following an argument about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Shahin suffered over a dozen stab wounds after she stated she was Muslim and remains in the hospital as of Monday.
Shahin’s 6-year-old son, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was reportedly stabbed 26 times during the incident and later died at a local hospital.
Detectives determined that both victims were allegedly targeted by the suspect due to their Muslim faith and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Czuba’s wife stated in court on Monday that the 71-year-old had been listening to conservative talk radio and felt Shahin and her son were going to call people over to attack them.
“This was an attack on all of us,” Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. “It pains me that the sacrificial lamb for this atmosphere was this beautiful boy, who had his whole life ahead of him.”
A LaunchGood campaign was organized to help raise funds for the child’s funeral and his mother’s medical expenses.
Joseph Czuba has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crime and two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 30.
FBI Chicago announced Monday that they have opened a federal investigation into the hate crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.