LONDON — The accused attacker of British author Salman Rushdie was transformed by a trip to Lebanon in 2018, when he became more religious and less outgoing, his mother says.
Lebanese-born Silvana Fardos, of Fairview, New Jersey, describes her 24-year-old son Hadi Matar as “a moody introvert,” increasingly fixated with Islam after the 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 told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, according to a report on its website.
“He was angry that I did not introduce him to Islam from a young age,” she said in an interview published online last night.
Matar was arrested at the scene of the attack on Rushdie, 75, at a literary event in upstate New York on Friday.
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.
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.
“I just cannot believe he was capable of doing something like this. He was very quiet. Everyone loved him,” she said.
Her son “changed a lot” after his trip to Lebanon, she said. Matar’s father moved backed to Lebanon after the two divorced.
“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’s family hails from the southern Lebanese village, where support is strong for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. The mayor told Reuters that Matar stayed in a building in Yaroun while visiting Lebanon.