Rushdie’s attacker was ‘changed’ by 2018 Lebanon trip, says mother

Lebanese-born Silvana Fardos, who lives in New Jersey, tells UK newspaper that Hadi Matar became more religious, moody after spending a month with estranged father

Screen capture from video of Silvana Fardos, whose son Hadi Matar is accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in New York, August 2022. (Daily Mail)
Screen capture from video of Silvana Fardos, whose son Hadi Matar is accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in New York, August 2022. (Daily Mail)

LONDON — The attacker who stabbed British author Salman Rushdie multiple times at a New York event on Friday was transformed by a trip to Lebanon in 2018, when he became more religious and less outgoing, his mother told the UK Daily Mail newspaper this week.

Lebanese-born Silvana Fardos, of Fairview, New Jersey, described her 24-year-old son Hadi Matar as “a moody introvert,” increasingly fixated with Islam after the month-long visit to see his estranged father.

“One time, he argued with me, asking why I encouraged him to get an education instead of focusing on religion,” she said.

“He was angry that I did not introduce him to Islam from a young age,” Fardos, 46, said in an interview published online Sunday.

Matar was arrested at the scene of the attack on Rushdie, 75, at a literary event in upstate New York.

He pleaded not guilty the following day to charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon, and is being held without bail.

Prosecutors have described a planned, premeditated assault on Rushdie, who was stabbed approximately 10 times.

Police have provided no information about the suspect’s background or his possible motive.

Hadi Matar, 24, center, listens to his public defense attorney Nathaniel Barone, left, addresses the judge while being arraigned in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

Award-winning author Rushdie has faced death threats for more than 30 years for “The Satanic Verses.” Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding his death. An Iranian foundation had put up a bounty of over $3 million for the author.

Fardos said she was “shell-shocked” to receive a call from one of her twin 14-year-old daughters telling her that the FBI was at the family’s home and her son was allegedly responsible for the stabbing.

“I just cannot believe he was capable of doing something like this. He was very quiet. Everyone loved him,” she said, and noted she doesn’t know if her son had even read Rushdie’s famous book “The Satanic Verses.”

Her son “changed a lot” after his trip to Lebanon, she said. Matar’s father moved backed to Lebanon after the two divorced in 2004.

“I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job, but instead he locked himself in the basement,” she said.

“I couldn’t tell you much about his life after that because he has isolated me since 2018,” and also said little to the rest of his family for months.

Matar lived in the basement of the family home, she said, and had barred her from entering his quarters.

Fardos said she would try to encourage her son to get a job, and he did for a while, even telling her he intended to go back to school in September to study cybersecurity.

“I felt like he was in a long-term depression and now it was time for him to recover and come back to life, to come back to his family,” she said.

Fardos said the family would have to “move on from this, without him.”

Matar’s family hails from the southern Lebanese village of Yaroun, where support is strong for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. They emigrated to the US where Matar was born and he grew up in Cudahy, California.

The mayor told Reuters that Matar stayed in a building in Yaroun while visiting Lebanon.

Salman Rushdie in New York, November 15, 2017. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, archivo)

Rushdie was stabbed Friday while attending an event in western New York. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, his agent said. He was likely to lose the injured eye.

Rushdie’s 1998 novel “The Satanic Verses” was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims, who saw a character as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Around the world, often-violent protests erupted against Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family. One riot killed 12 people in his hometown of Mumbai.

An Iranian government official denied on Monday that Tehran was involved in Rushdie’s stabbing, while also blaming him for his own assault, in the country’s first public comments on the attack.

Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, “categorically” denied any link between Iran and the attack during a briefing to journalists.

Speaking at his weekly press conference in Tehran, he added: “In this attack, we do not consider anyone other than Salman Rushdie and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation.”

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