The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Oct. 18:
“Over this past weekend, a Palestinian American family in Chicago was brutally attacked in their home by their landlord. Six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume was tragically killed, and his mother remains in critical condition recovering in the hospital.
“The police arrested the landlord and were joined by the Department of Justice in investigating the assault as a hate crime.
“The attack came in response to the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which is putting millions of innocent civilians in harm’s way. In the days since Hamas’ invasion of Israel and Israel’s counterattack, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have observed an increase in threats of violence towards the Muslim and Arab American community and American Jewish communities. This is in addition to the already high levels of hate often directed at both groups.
“The murderer was clearly motivated by extremist rhetoric and placing blame for the conflict upon Palestinian and Muslim people as a proxy for Hamas. Such extremist language, whether referring to the Palestinian people as animals or calling for the extinction of Israel as a nation, does nothing to further peace in the Middle East and inflames extremist hatred here in the United States.
“Extremist messaging has only ever served to subjugate and harm targeted communities, as seen with the dehumanization and equation with the enemy that led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“As war rages in the Middle East, we are reminded that as Americans, while we may have connection and affinity to our ancestral countries, we cannot hold Jewish Americans responsible for Israel’s actions as a government, nor Palestinian Americans responsible for the actions of a terrorist organization based in Palestine.
“We grieve for the thousands of innocent civilian lives lost in the Middle East, and especially for the loss of Wadea Al-Fayoume. We feel the pain of our friends from the Arab American, Palestinian American, and Jewish American communities.
“JACL remains committed to engaging in conversations about the challenges faced by our Arab American, Palestinian American, and Jewish communities, and ensuring that extremism and hate do not overtake those discussions.
“As a nation, we cannot suffer any more losses like Wadea Al-Fayoume.”
The Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles issued the following statement:
“The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) condemns the recent anti-Muslim hate crime in Plainfield, Ill. Six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, were stabbed multiple times by their landlord, killing Wadea and seriously injuring Hanaan.
“When the landlord expressed that he was angry at her for what was happening in Israel and she responded by saying, ‘Let’s pray for peace,’ he attacked her and her son with a military-style knife. The hate crime was motivated by the landlord’s anti-Muslim bias and his anger about the Israel-Hamas war. He was charged with three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of committing a hate crime.”
Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM, said, “We are deeply saddened by this hateful act and by the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-semitic rhetoric that has erupted in the U.S. in the wake of the conflict in the Middle East. We grieve for the loss of life in the conflict and for the life of this child who was so brutally murdered.
“When fear and insecurity bind together, they create a dangerous poison that can inflict grave harm on individuals, heaping ongoing trauma onto communities, and etching deep wounds into humanity that fuels hate speech and violence. Hate crimes are not acceptable under any circumstances.
“We stand with our friends in communities across the country whose families are affected by this conflict, particularly with our friends in the Jewish American, Palestinian American, and Muslim American communities.”