U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have spoken with the family of the Palestinian American boy killed in a suspected hate crime near Chicago, amid increased anti-Muslim tensions in the country following the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
In a televised Oval Office address on Thursday night, President Biden mentioned Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Muslim who was stabbed 26 times when the landlord broke into his apartment on Sunday and attacked him and his mother. The boy was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, while his mother is expected to make a full recovery.
“His name was Wadea — Wadea — a proud American, a proud Palestinian American family,” President Biden said. “We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens. We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”
Following the speech, President Biden and the first lady spoke with Wadea's family.
“The President and First Lady spoke tonight to the father of Wadea Alfayoumi, as well as Wadea’s uncle,” the White House said in a statement obtained by Scripps News. “The President and First Lady expressed their deepest condolences to the Alfayoumi family as they mourn; their prayers that Wadea’s mother, Hannan Shahin, makes a full recovery; and their commitment to keep speaking out against anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim hate and violence.”
During a vigil on Tuesday, Wadea was remembered as a child who enjoyed playing with LEGO and soccer. The boy's mother shared that Wadea's final words were, "Mom, I'm fine."
Authorities say that the 71-year-old landlord, Joseph Czuba, targeted the Muslim family living beneath him and his wife due to the "ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis."
The Justice Department has initiated a hate crime investigation into the attack, and Czuba is now facing charges of murder, attempted murder, and hate crimes.
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