Wadih Al-Fayoum: The last words of the American Muslim boy stabbed with a knife were, “Mama, I’m fine.”
The last words of a six-year-old American Muslim boy who was stabbed to death in a suspected hate crime over the weekend were “Mom, I’m fine,” his uncle said as hundreds gathered to bury the child.
On Monday, the mosque’s foundation in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview was packed, with some paying their respects on the sidewalk outside.
Police say Wadih Al-Fayoum was attacked because he is Muslim. His funeral was held while the family owner was appearing in court on charges of killing the boy. The 71-year-old defendant was allegedly upset by the war between Israel and Hamas.
Mourners came from all over the region, some from much further afield, to express their grief and anger over the killing.
Wadih’s mother, 32-year-old Hanan Shaheen, was seriously injured in the attack and was unable to attend her son’s funeral while he was recovering in hospital.
Sadia Nawab, a mother of three who lives near the mosque, said: “I am shocked but not surprised.” “We are worried about our children, and even more worried about the vulnerable children around the world who are now in Palestine and in Gaza.”
Ms. Nawab said local schools had taken extra precautions due to events in Israel and Gaza. In a theme repeated by many mourners, she accused government leaders and media institutions of bias against the Palestinians and encouraging an atmosphere of hatred.
Yusuf Hanoun, a spokesman for the family, said that before the killing there were “no signs of anything wrong” between the alleged perpetrator, Joseph Chuba, and the victims.
Hannon said the boy and his mother were living in two rented rooms in a house owned by Chuba, who had attended Wadi’s birthday just a few weeks earlier.
Hannon told the BBC: “He was friendly with all family members, especially with the child, whom he treated as if he were his grandson.” “He brought him gifts, he brought him some toys.”
Hanoun said that Wadih “loved his school, loved his teachers, and loved his mother.”
“He loved life,” he said. “He was acting like a normal six-year-old, always smiling.”
Another uncle, Mahmoud Youssef, said: “When… [Wadea] His last words to his mother were: “Mom, I’m fine.” You know what, he’s fine. He’s in a better place.”
The public prosecutor said in a lawsuit that the owner was angry with Wadih’s mother “because of what is happening in Jerusalem.”
“She responded, ‘Let’s pray for peace,’” Assistant District Attorney Michael Fitzgerald wrote. “Chuba then attacked her with a knife.”
Prosecutors say Mr. Chuba listened to conservative radio shows and became increasingly paranoid about the presence of the Palestinian-American family in his home. Wadih was born in the United States after his mother came to the country 12 years ago.
According to court documents, Chuba’s wife told police that her husband feared they would be attacked by people of Middle Eastern origin and, fearing a disaster for the US power grid, withdrew $1,000 (£820) from a bank.
On Saturday morning, police were called to his home in Plainfield, Illinois, about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Chicago.
According to text messages the family sent to the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Mr. Chuba tried to strangle Ms. Shaheen and said, “You Muslims, you should die.”
Mr. Chuba appeared in court on Monday on charges of murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of hate crimes.
Wearing red prison clothing and with tangled white hair, he was held without bail and ordered to have no contact with Ms Shaheen. He spoke only briefly to confirm that he would need a court-ordered public defender and that he understood the charges against him, before he could be restrained and returned to the county jail.
Separately, the US Department of Justice said it was opening a hate crimes investigation.
On Monday, the square outside Chuba’s home, one of a row of homes along a busy road, was filled with handmade signs and wooden crosses. Piles of children’s toys were seen in the backyard, evidence of the play area that family members said the owner built for the boy.
After the arrest, neighbors set up a makeshift memorial outside the home, with stuffed animals, a Spider-Man pillow, balloons and a sign that read, “Rest in peace, dear boy!”
The funeral witnessed a heavy security presence in a neighborhood known as Little Palestine. On this corner of Bridgeview, local stores carry signs in English and Arabic, and businesses fly the Palestinian and American flags side by side.
“This child should be in school, and instead we are here today for his funeral,” said Syed Khan, vice president of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.
After Hamas attacks killed more than 1,400 people, more than 2,700 people were killed in Gaza in retaliatory strikes by Israel. Israel says at least 199 people are being held hostage in Gaza.