Illinois Mother Recuperates After Palestinian American Boy Killed in Attack Police Call a Hate Crime

CAIR-Chicago via AP
This undated photo provided on Mon., Oct. 16, 2023, by the Chicago chapter of the Council On American Islamic Relations, shows Wadea Al-Fayoume.

CHICAGO (AP) — A Palestinian American woman whose 6-year-old son was killed in what police are calling a hate crime in a Chicago suburb has asked the public to “pray for peace” as she recuperates from her injuries.

Hanaan Shahin issued a statement Tuesday through the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations after meeting with the group’s executive director a day earlier. The written statement marked her first public comments since the brutal Oct. 14 attack that left her with more than a dozen stab wounds and stitches on her face.

Authorities said the family’s suburban Chicago landlord singled them out because of their Islamic faith and as a response to the escalating Israel-Hamas war.

“Pray for peace,” Shahin said, thanking authorities, doctors and others. She was released from the hospital last week and has declined interviews with reporters.

Shahin, who works as a caregiver to seniors, lost her son, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in the attack that has contributed to fears about rising hostility against Muslims and Palestinians in the U.S. In Illinois alone in the past week, a suburban man was charged with a hate crime in an assault against two Muslims and an Islamic day school canceled class after receiving threats.

Joseph Czuba, 71, faces murder, attempted murder and hate crime charges. He is due in court next week. Czuba’s attorney, George Lenard, released a statement last week via the Will County Public Defender’s Office saying he would not comment on the case beyond “what is presented in the courtroom.”

Shahin, who was hospitalized during her son’s funeral, remembered him as an intelligent and funny child who cared about the planet and liked to join her in prayers.

She said she felt comforted “remembering her son as an angel on earth, and knowing that he is now an angel in heaven.”

She added, “He was my best friend.”