Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker forcefully condemned the killing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in a community southwest of Chicago on Sunday, calling the alleged slaying, which police have labeled a hate crime, “nothing short of evil.” “To take a six year old child’s life in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil,” Pritzker said Sunday evening, reports Politico. “This wasn’t just a murder — it was a hate crime." According to police, a 71-year-old Illinois man fatally stabbed a 6-year-old boy and seriously wounded a 32-year-old woman, targeting the pair for their Muslim faith amid the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas. The suspect, Joseph M. Czuba of Plainfield, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office in Joliet.
The boy, who Pritzker identified in his statement as Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed 26 times and pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the sheriff’s office. The woman, who Pritzker confirmed in his statement was the boy’s mother, was also stabbed several times but is expected to recover. In the wake of the Hamas-led surprise attack on Israel last week, police and federal authorities across the U.S. have been on high alert for antisemitic- or Islamophobic-driven violence. Jewish and Muslim groups have reported an increase of hateful and threatening rhetoric on social media. Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, described the attack as “our worst nightmare,” in a statement Sunday afternoon, ahead of Pritzker’s condemnation.