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Rushdie attacker returned to US as ‘religious zealot’ after 2018 Lebanon trip: Mother

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The mother of the man who attacked acclaimed author Salman Rushdie revealed that her son, born and raised in the US, took a monthlong trip to Lebanon and came back a “religious zealot,” UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported on Sunday.

Hadi Matar’s mother, Silvana Fardos, reportedly said that she expected her son, 24, to come back from the 2018 trip “motivated,” but instead returned as a “moody introvert,” very different to his once outgoing self.

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She also revealed in the exclusive interview that he would lock himself in the basement of their New Jersey home and refuse to speak to his family for months.

Rushdie, 75, was set to deliver a lecture on artistic freedom at Chautauqua Institution in western New York when Matar rushed the stage and stabbed the Indian-born writer on Friday morning.

Author Salman Rushdie is helped by people after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., August 12, 2022, in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)
Author Salman Rushdie is helped by people after he was stabbed on stage before his scheduled speech at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S., August 12, 2022, in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)

The author has lived with a bounty on his head since his 1988 novel ‘The Satanic Verses,’ which prompted Iran to urge Muslims to kill him.

After the incident, FBI agents raided Matar’s home in Fairview, New Jersey on Friday. This was reportedly the first time Fardos heard about the stabbing.

Hadi Matar who attacked acclaimed author Salman Rushdie. (Twitter)
Hadi Matar who attacked acclaimed author Salman Rushdie. (Twitter)

“I received a call from my daughter. I was at work and she told me the FBI are here – I was shell shocked,” Fardos, 46, told the Daily Mail.

Fardos said that the FBI agents seized several items from her son’s basement, including books, knives, a computer, PlayStation, and a tool used to sharpen blades.

“I just cannot believe he was capable of doing something like this. He was very quiet, everyone loved him. As I said to the FBI I’m not going to bother talking to him again. He's responsible for his actions,” she said.

“I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset, they’re shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.”

A New Jersey police officer and a plain-clothed police officer exit the building where alleged attacker of Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar, lives in Fairview, New Jersey, US, August 12, 2022. (Reuters)
A New Jersey police officer and a plain-clothed police officer exit the building where alleged attacker of Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar, lives in Fairview, New Jersey, US, August 12, 2022. (Reuters)

Fardos, who is Lebanese and born Muslim, said she did not know if her son ever read Rushdie’s book but noticed that he had become more religious since his trip, adding that he previously criticized her for not giving him a strict Muslim upbringing.

“To tell you the truth I never heard of his writer before. I never read any of his books, I didn’t know that such a writer even exists. I had no knowledge that my son ever read his book,” she explained.

Matar’s parents emigrated from Lebanon’s southern border town Yaroun, a stronghold of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

He was born and raised in the US and went to school in Cudahy, California. His parents divorced in 2004 and his father moved back to Lebanon while she moved to New Jersey, the Daily Mail revealed.

Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, who pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault of acclaimed author Salman Rushdie, appears in booking photographs at Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville, New York, US August 12, 2022. (Reuters)
Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, who pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault of acclaimed author Salman Rushdie, appears in booking photographs at Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville, New York, US August 12, 2022. (Reuters)

The 24-year-old’s 2018 Lebanon trip was to visit his father.

“The first hour he gets there he called me, he wanted to come back. He stayed for approximately 28 days but the trip did not go well with his father, he felt very alone,” Fardos said.

“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. He had changed a lot. He didn’t say anything to me or his sisters for months,” Fardos was quoted as saying.

“I couldn’t tell you much about his life after that because he has isolated me since 2018. If I approach him sometimes, he says hi, sometimes he just ignores me and walks away.”

According to the mother, Matar would sleep during the day and wake up and eat during the night.

“He lives in the basement. He cooks his own food,” she added.

Matar barred his mother from entering the basement in her home, where she also lives with his 14-year-old twin sisters.

“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,” Fardos said.

“I’m Lebanese but I’ve been here for 26 years. I’m living a simple life as a single mom, trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table for my kids,” Fardos was quote as saying.

“I don’t care about politics, I’m not religious. I was born a Muslim and that’s it basically. I didn't push my kids into religion or force anything on my son. I don't know anyone in Iran, all my family are here,” she said.

Read more:

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