Local Muslim leader fears ‘hateful rhetoric’ behind Illinois boy’s murder

SUNRISE, Fla. – The fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois is having an impact across the country, including here in South Florida.

Police believe that the 71-year-old suspect, Joseph Czuba, killed Wadea Al-Fayoume and wounded his 32-year-old mother because of their faith amid the ongoing war in the Middle East.

Wilfredo Ruiz, who belongs to the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is chalking the crime up to “hateful rhetoric” targeting fellow Muslims.

“The same hate that motivates terrorists is the same hate that moved this individual to kill an innocent child,” Ruiz said Monday. “We just saw the first victim of the Gaza war here in America, that child because of the political rhetoric, and this is by partisans.”

He said associating all Muslims or Palestinians with Hamas is “dangerous.”

“The biggest misconception is that the 2 million residents of Gaza have any say on who is governing them,” Ruiz said. “Do we give the responsibility to the Cubans living in Cuba for their government or the Venezuelans living in Venezuela for their government?”

He added, “We already saw what Hamas was capable of doing, and we are asking the civilian community, the teacher, the plumber, the electrician to do something about it? What can they do?”

Dr. Daniel Bober, the chief of psychiatry at Memorial Regional Hospital, encouraged tolerance.

“Spread compassion not stigma, we don’t want to stigmatize an entire ethnicity or group of people,” Bober said. “We need to be very cautious about that, because sometimes that can be the start of how discrimination begins.”

Czuba, the family’s landlord, is facing murder and attempted murder charges.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."