Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Interfaith service held for victim killed in alleged anti-Palestinian hate crime, rallies support for congressional resolution

Misha Oberoi/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston resident Rabbi Brant Rosen (second from right), who was in Gaza a few weeks ago, spoke at the interfaith service about Jewish solidarity with Palestinians.

Content warning: This story contains discussion of hate crime.

A week after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadee Alfayoumi was stabbed 26 times in his home in Plainfield, Illinois, in an alleged hate crime.

On Sunday evening, the First United Methodist Church in Chicago, also known as the Chicago Temple, held an interfaith service in Alfayoumi’s memory and to urge people to support a U.S. House resolution that honors him. 

U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) introduced H. Res. 942 in December 2023. The resolution advocates against hate crimes, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab discrimination.

Although many resolutions have been passed recently by the House to denounce antisemitism, none have taken a stance against anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim discrimination, said the Rev. Anna Piela, co-associate regional minister of American Baptist Churches Metro Chicago and one of the event organizers, in a May 2 news release. 

The resolution also calls upon elected officials and media to “tell the truth without dehumanizing rhetoric” when relaying information about “factual information” to the public.

The service began at 4 p.m. and was co-organized by Piela; Her husband the Rev. Michael Woolf, also a co-associate regional minister of American Baptist Churches Metro Chicago; Asif Masood, interfaith and outreach coordinator at Muslim Community Center Chicago; and Deena Habbal, Muslim Civic Coalition communications lead. 

Woolf is also the senior minister at Lake Street Church of Evanston, which co-sponsored the event. It was also co-sponsored by the Muslim Community Center, the Muslim Civic Coalition, Tzedek Synagogue of Chicago and Jewish Voices for Peace Chicago.

Piela said it was important for the event to be an interfaith collaboration. 

“We want to stand up and say that us people of different faiths are saying that Wadee’s life was really important,” Piela said. “From a Christian perspective, we are the hegemonic faith in this country, and so I think we also bear some responsibility for the hate crime that is happening around us.”

The event started with a short recitation of verses from the Quran, before a slate of speakers. Tarek Khalil — a member of American Muslims for Palestine Chicago — said his own child, who turned 5 the same day, reminds him of Alfayoumi.

The dehumanization of Palestinians has resulted in the murder of Alfayoumi and other hate crimes, Khalil said. 

“(Palestinians) need to do whatever we can to convince our Congress officials that we are human,” Khalil said. “We cannot turn away even after the dust settles.” 

Imam Hassan Aly, director of Humanitarian Faith Initiative, spoke about the Muslim perspective on the loss of lives in Gaza, specifically the lives of children. He said each soul is one of God’s unique creations, and each child lost in Gaza is a “failure to protect the most valuable.” 

Aly also spoke about how this is a time when students worldwide are graduating from college and contrasted it with the students in Gaza who have not had the same chance. 

“We must not forget the face of the children, the dreams they carried,” Aly said. 

The service took place as Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip has killed over 35,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, according to Palestinian officials. Israel’s ground and air offensive follows the militant group Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel killed about 1,200 Israelis, according to Israeli officials.

Rabbi Brant Rosen, who spoke two weeks ago at a panel organized by the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, also spoke at the event. Rosen said hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum but are a result of echo chambers. 

Rosen also said he feels his safety and security as a Jew are inseparable from the safety and security of all people. 

Maaria Mozaffar, the director of advocacy and policy at the Muslim Civic Coalition, introduced the House resolution to attendees, inviting them to sign a letter of support and contact their elected representatives for the resolution.

Mozaffar said the nation needs to respond proactively to hate crimes to prevent its “character” from becoming shaped by what happened to Alfayoumi. 

Ramirez spoke at the end of the event. She said she feels the country failed Alfayoumi and urged people to put their “good intentions into good action.”

“I will continue to work around the clock until we get the (House) Judicial Committee to also follow suit,” Ramirez said.  

Evanston resident and Lake Street Church member Roz Poole said she felt the event was an important way to show solidarity. 

Poole said she had already signed the petition for the resolution, but the event helped her gain a deeper understanding of it. She said she feels people should come to events like these to fulfill their civic responsibility. 

“Every little bit that you do in the world helps,” Poole said. “We can’t do the big things, sometimes. We can only do what we can do, and this is what I could do this afternoon.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Imam Hassan Aly’s title. The Daily regrets the error. 

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