Thousands gathered at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, on Oct. 16 to pray the janazah, or funeral prayer, for 6-year old Wadea Al-Fayoume. Al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 times with a serrated military knife at his Plainfield, Illinois, home by his landlord, Joseph Czuba, on Oct. 14. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, aged 32, was stabbed more than a dozen times; she is currently in critical condition, but is expected to survive.
Before the funeral prayer, a press conference was held with Wadea Al-Fayoume’s father, Odey Al-Fayoume, who, speaking in Arabic, called his son a martyr. “I hope that the families of Gaza accept him from me as such,” he said. “The issue of Hamas and Gaza are world issues, not pertaining to individual countries. I’m not big enough to speak of these things. And I hope that my son can be a means by which this issue can be fixed.”
Before the janazah, long-time leader of the Bridgeview community Sheikh Jamal Said spoke to the congregants about the extraordinary and horrific conditions under which thousands had gathered. He began by saying, “Wadea was a child, and he is not the only one who is under attack. There are thousands of children in the Holy Land who are under attack, sometimes the rate is more than 70 per day.” Over the past 11 days, Israeli air strikes have killed 2,778 people, including more than 1,000 children.
He continued: “This is the result of the occupation, day in and day out. This is not the first incident, almost every week someone comes to me before I lead the prayer and asks, ‘Sheikh please make a dua [prayer] for my father,’ ‘Make dua for my extended family, 12 of them have been killed.’”
Czuba was influenced by Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian rhetoric that has been drummed up by the media and public officials alike over the past week. As Israel intensifies its genocidal bombing campaign, U.S. leaders fully support an all-out war with President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen both claiming that the United States can absolutely afford another war.
Before and after the janazah, crowds gathered and chants of “Free Free Palestine” rang out. Many in the crowd also pointed fingers and blamed the media for their role in causing this horrific murder. After the janazah, Liberation News caught up with Belal Marouf who spoke about U.S. complicity in Israel’s crimes: “We have a Zionist congress and a Zionist president who are clearly telling me as a Muslim-American that I am second class. Why do my tax my dollars have to fund genocide? Why do my tax dollars fund hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements?”
Marouf continued blaming Biden for inciting Al-Fayoume’s murder: “I don’t need President Biden to be on my side, but I need him to be on the just side. This is Zionist genocide. They are blaming this on a senior citizen [referencing Czuba, aged 71], but it was a different senior citizen who caused this, Biden and Trump, both of them are responsible. This guy [Czuba] just did the butchering, they did the inciting. Joe Biden is to blame.”
Sheikh Jamal Said reflected on the similarities in conditions for Black Americans and Palestinians in his pre-janazah sermon: “Honestly when I was thinking of this child I was thinking about the whole picture. And George Floyd passed into my mind, when he was shouting ‘I can’t breathe’ when someone [Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin] put his knee on his neck. He was shouting ‘I can’t breathe’ for nine minutes. There were people on the sidelines who did not intervene and they regretted it later. The Palestinian people have been saying we can’t breathe for tens of years. They are saying they can’t breathe, please help us, because there is an occupation.” Sheikh Jamal’s statement follows a long tradition of Black and Palestinian solidarity.
Despite the crocodile tears from U.S. politicians like Biden, U.S. support for Israel remains unwavering even as the Zionist state commits horrific war crimes like the bombing of Al-Ahli hospital. The horrific murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume follows in the long tradition of dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims, which after reaching a peak in the 2000s and 2010s during the so-called War on Terror is returning with a feverish pitch as the United States greenlights Israeli genocide.
Justice for Wadea! Lift the siege, end Israeli apartheid and free, free Palestine!
Feature photo: Sign outside the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, at the funeral prayer for Wadea Al-Fayoume. Liberation photo