The 6-year-old Palestinian-American who was stabbed to death at his home in a Chicago suburb over the weekend told his mother “I’m fine” as he was dying, she revealed in a heartbreaking Facebook just hours after the attack.
Wadea Al-Fayoume, who loved running and playing soccer, uttered his last words after he was stabbed 26 times and his 32-year-old mother, Hanaan Shaheen, a dozen times.
Joseph Czuba, 71, who was the family’s landlord, was arrested over the stabbings. The Will County Sheriff’s Office said Czuba was likely motivated by “the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” as well as the family’s Muslim faith.
The child died from his horrific injuries, and his mother remains in the hospital. Just hours after the attack on Saturday, she appeared to post her son’s last words to Facebook.
“My son’s last words were: (I’m fine). May God have mercy on him and let him dwell in the highest paradise.”
Ms Shaheen has also posted about her son in recent weeks, including a video of his sixth birthday on 6 October, just 10 days before he was killed.
One video shows the mother and son playing as the boy blows kisses at the camera. Another video shows them playing outside at a playground and doing workouts together.
A funeral and prayer service for the boy was held at the Mosque Foundation on Monday, where people including his father prayed in front of a tiny casket draped with a Palestinian flag.
Odey Al-Fayoume, the father of Wadea Al-Fayoume, gave a brief speech in Arabic outside his son’s funeral, saying he hopes his son’s murder “wakes us up.”
“I’m here as the father of the boy, not as a politician or religious scholar,” he said. “I’m here as the father of a boy whose rights were violated.”
“The issue of Hamas and Gaza is an issue of people, not countries,” Mr Al-Fayoume said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m too small to comment on it, and I hope my son becomes a bullet that solves this issue.”
Others spoke outside the boy’s funeral, pleading for no war in the United States and calling on President Biden to apologize after first saying he had seen photos of Israeli babies beheaded by Hamas.
Unverified claims about the beheading of Israeli children and rape of hostages by Hamas have spread rapidly on social media in the days following the attack in Israel.
The White House walked back the president’s claim last week, but several of the speakers at the boy’s funeral demanded an apology directly from Biden himself.
“Our president needs to come out and say something,” a man identified only as Wadea’s uncle said. “We are not in a war.”
“You want war? It’s overseas. It’s not our war. It’s not the United States’ war,” he added.
CAIR-Chicago called the incident “our worst nightmare” and says they have seen a spike in hate calls and emails since the violence in the Middle East broke out on 7 October.
The organisation claims that the mother sent the boy’s father text messages, alleging that the suspect shouted “You Muslims must die” ahead of the stabbing.
“What we have is a murdered Palestinian child by someone who is radicalized by the environment in which we live right now, that casts Palestinians as human animals,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago told reporters on Sunday.
Mr Rehab spoke again at the funeral on Monday.
“This was an attack on all of us. We were all stabbed that day,” he said, and then asked everyone, no matter their religion, “to commit to a basic level of respect for all humanity.”
President Biden called the stabbings of the mother and son “a horrific act of hate” that “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.”
Czuba was found outside the home following the stabbing “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.
He is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the sheriff’s office. The U.S. Justice Department has also launched a federal hate crime investigation into the stabbings.