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Mourners gather for 6-year-old Palestinian American boy who was fatally stabbed

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today, mourners gathered at a mosque for prayer before the burial of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy. He was fatally stabbed in his home in Illinois on Saturday. His mother was also stabbed and seriously injured. The family's landlord now faces multiple charges, including murder and attempted murder. WBEZ's Anna Savchenko has been following this story and joins us now. Welcome.

ANNA SAVCHENKO, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: Hi. So this stabbing, it happened in an unincorporated township outside of Chicago. Today's prayer service, I know, occurred in a nearby Chicago suburb. And I understand you're standing outside the mosque where the service took place. What has it been like there today?

SAVCHENKO: Well, dozens gathered here outside the mosque today. Some of them were waving Palestinian flags. And the atmosphere ahead of the prayer that was held here was just very somber. And people were visibly upset.

CHANG: And what have people been saying to you who were at the service?

SAVCHENKO: There were a lot of Muslim faith leaders here today that were addressing the crowd before the prayer, and they decried the attack as a senseless act of violence. And they also decried the media's role in fanning tensions from the war between Israel and Hamas, and tensions that police say motivated the attack on the little boy and his mother.

CHANG: Well, as we mentioned, police have arrested a suspect, the family's landlord, who apparently faces several charges, right? What do we know about him and his personal relationship with the mother and son?

SAVCHENKO: Well, we know that the police found him sitting outside of the driveway of the residence where this all happened. We don't know much else about him. But the Council on American-Islamic relations held a press conference yesterday. And Ahmed Rehab, who runs their Chicago office, he said that the parents never suspected that their son could possibly be in danger with this person. And here's what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

AHMED REHAB: The father says that he had built a treehouse for the boy and allowed him to swim in a makeshift pool and brought him toys. But it wasn't until he started watching the news and hearing the statements that something changed.

SAVCHENKO: So that's Rehab there talking about how - what he says is biased media coverage, which helped shaped Czuba's perception of the boy and his mother, unfortunately. And we know that the suspect had a short appearance in court today and that he was assigned a public defender.

CHANG: OK. And what do we know about the condition of the mother at this moment?

SAVCHENKO: We know that she was taken to the hospital in very serious condition after the incident. And the latest that we have heard is that doctors expect her to fully recover.

CHANG: Now, this tragedy has prompted a response from a lot of people throughout the country, including from federal and state officials. Can you talk about what they have been saying?

SAVCHENKO: Yeah. Yeah. The mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois have both condemned the hate crime. So has President Joe Biden. But the people who came to the mosque today, they are still upset. They're upset by what they're calling one-sided remarks on the Israel-Hamas war from the White House, and they really want to see that changed.

CHANG: That is WBEZ's Anna Savchenko. Thank you so much, Anna.

SAVCHENKO: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Anna Savchenko
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