Mother of Salman Rushdie’s alleged attacker expresses disbelief over stabbing

·5 min read
Rushdie was stabbed multiple times in the attack on Friday - Reuters
Rushdie was stabbed multiple times in the attack on Friday - Reuters

Hadi Matar, who is accused of repeatedly stabbing Sir Salman Rushdie on Friday, turned into a religious zealot after a month-long trip to Lebanon, his mother has revealed.

In an exclusive interview with the MailOnline, Silvana Fardos said her outgoing American-raised son became moody and introverted following a visit to see his father in 2018.

“I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job,” she told the publication.

“But instead he locked himself in the basement. He had changed a lot, he didn’t say anything to me or his sisters for months.”

Ms Fardos said her son locked himself away in the basement of the family home in New Jersey, banning her from entering.

“One time he argued with me, asking why I encouraged him to get an education instead of focusing on religion. He was angry that I did not introduce him to Islam from a young age,” she said.

Hadi Matar - Reuters/Chautauqua County Jail
Hadi Matar - Reuters/Chautauqua County Jail

Matar is also believed to have had contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Vice World News reported.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official told the outlet it was “clear” that Matar had been in direct contact with “people either directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force” via social media.

However, the extent of the involvement in the attack remained unclear, the source added.

Ms Fardos described her son as very quiet, expressing disbelief that he was capable of carrying out such an attack. “As I said to the FBI, I’m not going to bother talking to him again. He’s responsible for his actions,” she added.

The 24-year-old appeared in court on Saturday where he pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.

Hadi Matar appeared in court on Saturday in connection with the attack - AP
Hadi Matar appeared in court on Saturday in connection with the attack - AP

Meanwhile Sir Salman’s son, Zafar said the author’s “usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact” despite suffering life-changing injuries.

In a statement, Mr Rushdie confirmed that his father, who was attacked as he prepared to give a lecture in upstate New York on Friday, has been taken off a ventilator.

The author, who remains in a critical condition, was able to say a few words, Mr Rushdie added.

He also paid tribute to members of the audience who “bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid”.

Mr Rushdie’s update came within hours of Andrew Wylie, Sir Salman’s agent, confirming earlier reports that Sir Salman’s condition was improving.

“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” Mr Wylie told Reuters.

“It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”

Sir Salman was stabbed three times in the neck, and four times in the stomach. He also suffered puncture wounds to his chest and right eye and a laceration to his right thigh, prosecutors said.

On Saturday fellow author, Aatish Taseer, tweeted that Sir Salman was talking and joking.

Speaking on CNN, Henry Reese, the moderator of the event who was on stage when Sir Salman was attacked, said the attacker made a reference to the fatwa on the author but was difficult to understand.

“It looked like a sort of bad prank in any sense of reality and there was blood behind him that became real.”

Mr Reese, who wore a dressing above the black eye he suffered in the attack, said it took several moments to grasp what was happening.

The event he hosted on behalf of “City of Asylum”, was intended to support other writers, with fewer resources than Sir Salman, who were under threat.

“And that is the grim sort of irony – or maybe intention – to not only assault his body, but to assault everything that he represented.”

The alleged assailant, Hadi Matar, 24, was wrestled to the ground by staff and other audience members before being taken into custody.

Matar appears in court

He appeared in court on Saturday where he pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.

Nathaniel Barone, a public defender, said Matar had been very cooperative and was communicating openly with him.

Matar was born in the US to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun in the south of the country.

Flags of the Iran-backed militant group, Hezbollah, were visible in the town alongside portraits of political leader Hassan Nasrallah, Ali Khamenei, current Supreme Leader of Iran, and Qassem Soleimani, the slain Iranian general.

Matar’s father, who has returned to Lebanon, locked himself away at his home in Yaroun refusing to comment on the incident.

In the US, Matar lived in New Jersey, frequenting a boxing gym in North Bergen, where members described him as quiet.

Event criticised over security measures

Sir Salman has lived under a fatwa since 1989, imposed by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, following the publication of his book The Satanic Verses.

However, in a recent interview with a German magazine, Sir Salman said the fatwa was a long time ago and his life was “relatively normal”.

The Chautauqua Institution, which hosted the event, has faced criticism for not bringing in security measures, such as metal detectors, as a precaution.

According to CNN, they had decided against doing so because they feared it would create a divide between speakers and the audience.

However, the institution defended the arrangements.

“We have worked with security consultants, local law enforcement, New York State Police and the FBI, and have implemented many of their top recommendations,” a spokesman said.

“We also talk about security procedures on a regular basis with colleagues at festivals, lecture series and universities, and will continue to have those conversations to make sure we are following best practices.”