In yet another disturbing case of anti-Muslim hate crime in the US that has come to light a month later, an unidentified man threw acid on a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin as she walked home.
The incident happened in Long Island, a suburb of New York City, on March 17 when 21-year-old college student Nafiah Ikram and her mother were getting out of their car and the assailant rushed up to them and threw caustic acid, before whisking away.
Nafiah, a medical student at Hofstra University, was immediately rushed to the hospital.
The attack, according to reports quoting the victim’s family, left her severely burned and nearly blind.
A statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, said the attack left her hospitalized for 15 days, with severe burns to her face, eyes, neck, and hands.
The screaming caused the acid to go into Ikram’s mouth, preventing her from breathing, according to a GoFundMe set up for the victim.
Her parents, it added, ran to help her, burning their hands and arms in the process.
“He knew how dangerous the acid was,” the GoFundMe said, adding that if the acid had got into her lungs or her parents were not there to call 911, she would have succumbed.
Police have launched a hunt to nab the accused, according to reports, exactly a month after the shocking incident took place.
The attack, which comes amidst growing incidents of hate crime targeted against people of color, especially Asian-Americans and African-Americans, has been widely condemned by rights activists in the US.
“My whole life changed in a matter of five minutes,” the victim said in an interview to WCBS-TV. “We don’t realise what we have until it’s gone.”
“I can just see colors, but that’s it,” she said in the interview. “I want to know, like, what’s the reason? Like, what could I have possibly done to somebody?”
While Nafiah has begun to talk again, she struggles to eat or drink, because acid burned her throat, according to her father.
Padma Lakshmi, an Asian-American television celebrity, took to social media to say that she was close to victim’s family.
“This is their only daughter; she has her whole life ahead of her,” Lakshmi wrote. “This is the nightmare of any parent for this to happen to your child.
CAIR is demanding that the attack be investigated as a “hate crime”, although police have appeared reluctant to do that.
“CAIR (New York) is disturbed and shocked at the brutality of this crime, and law enforcement must do everything to apprehend the suspects,” the organization’s Legal Director Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement.
“Our community deserves safety. Amidst the rising hate crimes engulfing the state, it is important that this acid attack by an unknown individual be investigated as a possible hate crime,” it added.
Hofstra University also released a statement, saying it is “shocked by this horrific attack.”
A GoFundMe campaign has so far raised over $300,000 to help cover Ikram’s medical expenses.