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Muslim college student badly burned in acid attack in New York, police seek suspect

Nafiah Ikram spent 15 days in the hospital after she was attacked with acid outside her Long Island home in March. She may never be able to see again.

Police in New York are searching for a man suspected of throwing acid on a 21-year-old Muslim college student as she walked into her Long Island home with her mother last month.

Nafiah Ikram spent 15 days in the hospital after the March 17 attack, according to a statement from the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).

Ikram, a student at Hofstra University, was returning to her Elmont home at about 8:30 p.m. when "an unknown individual ran up to her and threw what is thought to be battery acid in her face," the statement said.

"Ikram immediately felt severe burning pain on her face, neck, and hands and began to scream for help," according to CAIR-NY. The screaming caused the acid to go into Ikram's mouth, preventing her from breathing, according to a GoFundMe set up for the student.

Image: Nafiah Ikram
Nafiah IkramCourtesy CAIR

Ikram's parents ran to help her, burning their hands and arms in the process, the GoFundMe said. Video of the incident shows the attacker wearing gloves.

He "knew how dangerous the acid was," the GoFundMe said, adding that if the acid had got into Ikram's lungs or her parents were not there to call 911, she would have died.

The Nassau County Police Department said a $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can identify the suspect or offer information that leads to his arrest. The 6-foot-tall man with a "skinny build" fled the scene in a red Nissan Altima, police said.

Ikram suffered severe burns to her face, eyes, chest and arms, according to CAIR-NY and the GoFundMe account. She was wearing contact lenses at the time of the attack, which burned into her eyes, and it is not known if she will ever be able to see again.

The GoFundMe, which has raised more than $340,000, was set up to cover medical bills, according to CAIR-NY. Both Ikram and her mother, a nurse practitioner, are out of work as she recovers.

Ikram also planned to go into the medical field.

A statement from Hofstra University said the school is "shocked by this horrific attack, and our thoughts are with Nafiah, her family and friends as she focuses on her recovery."

"We are committed to supporting her through that process and will cooperate and facilitate that in whatever ways are helpful," the statement said.

CAIR-NY Legal Director Ahmed Mohamed said: “CAIR-NY is disturbed and shocked at the brutality of this crime, and law enforcement must do everything to apprehend the suspects. 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."

New York's Hate Crime Task Force did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

"Top Chef" and "Taste the Nation" host Padma Lakshmi said she was close with the Ikram family and asked for anyone with information to come forward.

"This Pakistani family is such a nice family, I've known them for over a decade," Lakshmi said in a video posted to Instagram and Twitter on Tuesday.

"This is their only daughter; she has her whole life ahead of her," she said. "She’s lost a year of college, she may lose her eyesight, she will never be the same again. ... This is the nightmare of any parent for this to happen to your child."

"I don’t know who in the world would do this with acid like this. I don’t even know where you can get acid," Lakshmi said. "And I can’t stop thinking about her."