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Funeral held for 6-year-old boy killed in an apparent anti-Muslim attack

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hundreds of mourners filled an Illinois mosque yesterday for the funeral of a 6-year-old Palestinian American, Wadea Al-Fayoume.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Allahu akbar.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Allahu akbar.

INSKEEP: Law enforcement officials allege that a 71-year-old man killed the boy and wounded his mother because of their Palestinian background and Muslim faith and his own views of the Israeli-Hamas war. Illinois state representative Abdelnasser Rashid is also Palestinian American and was at the funeral. He's on the line. Good morning, sir.

ABDELNASSER RASHID: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was the funeral like?

RASHID: Oh, it was heartbreaking. You know, my heart has been heavy for the last 10 days. And now we find ourselves mourning a 6-year-old Palestinian boy killed right here in Plainfield, Ill., stabbed 26 times. And the military-style knife that he was stabbed with was retrieved from his abdomen during the autopsy. It's just - it's been heartbreaking. And unfortunately, he's a casualty of the politicians and many in the media cheering on Israel's march toward genocide that's created an environment of hate right here in America.

INSKEEP: Of course, the man also attacked the boy's mother. How's she doing so far as you know?

RASHID: She's in critical condition is my understanding.

INSKEEP: OK.

RASHID: I hope she recovers. I pray for her full recovery.

INSKEEP: You blamed just now a broader climate of the way that people are talking about the Israel-Hamas conflict. Let's try to talk through what you would like to hear. This is clearly a conflict that raises a lot of emotions. There clearly was a horrific attack by Hamas. That is part of the story here. How would you like people to talk - your fellow citizens to talk about this or not talk about this?

RASHID: Right. Well, the killing of civilians should always, always be condemned. And we mourn the tragic loss of life whether it's Palestinians or Israelis who are being killed. We all want and deserve to live in peace and safety, and that requires that we address the root cause of the problem. And pretending that this conflict started on Saturday, October 7, doesn't help us understand that the only way to forge a path forward is to address the fact that Israel has had a decades-long occupation that's denied Palestinians basic human rights and freedom. And if we want to save Palestinians and Israelis, we have to address the fact that there are - that there is this horrific occupation.

INSKEEP: Right. I want to bring this thought home to the United States. Are you feeling - in spite of this incident involving this individual, are you feeling support from the wider community or any part of it?

RASHID: Oh, I've been really heartened from the messages I've received from so many - of course, from my own constituents here in Illinois and from so many people. But unfortunately, unfortunately, you know, the U.S. government has fueled Israel's march toward genocide. And we saw that 1.1 million Palestinians were ordered out of their homes overnight with literally nowhere to go. And the U.S., instead of calling for de-escalation and cease-fire, is sending Israel more military funding. That is not a helpful response.

INSKEEP: OK, much to debate here. And we are hearing many voices on this topic and many views of the things you just expressed. Illinois State Representative Abdelnasser Rashid, thank you very much.

RASHID: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF OLAFUR ARNALDS' "MOMENTARY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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