A vigil was held in Orange County Tuesday evening, bringing dozens of people together to mourn the death of Wadea Al-Fayoum, a 6-year-old Muslim child in Illinois who was stabbed and killed in what authorities are investigating as a hate crime.
The vigil was held at the Islamic Center of Orange County in Garden Grove and was hosted by several Islamic civil rights and advocacy groups.
“We are here remembering this boy, but at the same time asking for Islamophobia to stop being spread in Orange County,” said Hassan Mukhlis of the Islamic Society Of Orange County.
Last week, Wadea and his mother were allegedly attacked by Joseph M. Czuba, 71, the family’s landlord in Plainfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Wadea was stabbed more than two-dozen times and died from his injuries. His mother was stabbed more than 30 times and is in critical condition, but is expected to survive.
Czuba was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder with special allegations that the crime was an act of hate.
The Will County Sheriff’s Office believes Czuba targeted the family due to their Muslim faith and the ongoing crisis unfolding in Israel and Gaza. The United States Department of Justice has also opened up a federal investigation into the crime.
In response to the violent attack, President Joe Biden released a statement in which he described the crime as “horrific,” adding that hate has no place in America and goes against the ideals of the nation.
“As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred,” the statement reads in part. “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.”
The Greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, aka CAIR, was among the organizations to host the vigil, which started around 6 p.m.
Organizers said the event was meant to give people space to mourn the death of Wadea Al-Fayoum, as well as “all victims of Islamophobia and war.”
“This is a reminder that hate words lead to hate crimes and sometimes to murder,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA.
Ayloush said it’s time to put an end to hate in all its forms, regardless of where you stand on the complicated international crisis playing out in the West Bank.
“Don’t be pro-Israeli, don’t be pro-Palestinian, be pro-justice,” Ayloush said. “Look at the facts, don’t be tribal. When your own people make something wrong, stand against it, even if it’s my own country — that’s an Islamic mandate for us and it’s a human mandate.”
World leaders are currently descending upon Tel Aviv as the war between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate. On Tuesday, a massive explosion ripped through a hospital in Gaza that was filled with patients and Palestinians seeking shelter.
Both Hamas and Israel have lobbed blame at one another for the devastating blast, which the Hamas-run health ministry said was responsible for at least 500 deaths.