The killing of a six-year-old boy in an anti-Muslim hate crime in Illinois drew strong condemnation from President Joe Biden on Sunday, after law enforcement authorities linked the attack to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
In a statement on Sunday, Will County Sheriff’s Office said they had arrested 71-year-old Joseph Czuba for allegedly stabbing the six-year-old and his mother—who is severely injured but expected to survive—in Plainfield, Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
Czuba was the victims’ landlord, police said.
The police said the victims were attacked “due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) identified the boy as Wadea Al-Fayoume and said in a press conference that he was Palestinian-American and his mother had migrated to the country from the West Bank 12 years ago.
In a statement issued by the White House, Biden said he and the first lady were “shocked and sickened” by the “brutal murder” and urged Americans to push back against Islamophobia and bigotry.
“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…I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.”
CAIR urged government officials and news outlets to stop “fanning an atmosphere of hate and de-humanization, not seen since the aftermath of 9/11,” and noted that several instances of hate targeting Muslims and Palestinians have been reported across the country since the Israel-Hamas conflict began. Some of these incidents include a man brandishing a pistol at the attendees of a pro-Palestinian rally in Pennsylvania, vandalism of a mosque in San Diego and threats against Palestinians in Dearborn, Michigan.