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Rushdie attacker says ‘surprised’ author survived: Report

Hadi Matar, 24, arrived for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York on August 13, 2022.

Hadi Matar, 24, arrived for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York on August 13, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

The New Jersey man accused of stabbing Salman Rushdie told the New York Post in an interview published on August 17 that he was “surprised” the author had survived the attack.

“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” Hadi Matar, 24, told the tabloid, which said they held a video interview with the jailed suspect.

The suspected assailant, who has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges, did not say whether he was inspired by the 1989 edict, or fatwa, issued under Iran’s former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that ordered Muslims to kill the writer for what he deemed the blasphemous nature of the book The Satanic Verses.

“I respect the ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that,” said Matar, who according to the Post was advised by his lawyer not to discuss the issue.

Matar told the paper he had “read a couple pages” of Mr. Rushdie’s novel.

“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” he said of the author. “I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much.”

“He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Matar said he was not in contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He said he had learned Mr. Rushdie would speak at the Chautauqua Institution’s literary series via a tweet earlier this year.

He told the Post he had taken a bus to Buffalo one day prior to the attack, before taking a Lyft to Chautauqua.

“I was hanging around pretty much. Not doing anything in particular, just walking around,” he told the paper. “I was just outside the whole time.”

Last Friday as Mr. Rushdie was set to deliver a talk as part of a lecture series, a man stormed the stage and stabbed him several times in the neck and abdomen.

The author was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery for life-threatening injuries. The 75-year-old’s condition remains serious but he was taken off a ventilator, and has shown signs of improvement.

Matar told the Post he had watched YouTube videos of Mr. Rushdie speaking, and called the author “disingenuous.”

On Monday Matar’s mother, Lebanese-born Silvana Fardos of Fairview, New Jersey, described Matar as “a moody introvert” who became increasingly fixated on Islam after visiting Lebanon to see his estranged father, in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.

He is set to appear in court on August 19.


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Printable version | Aug 28, 2022 12:08:01 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/rushdie-attacker-says-surprised-author-survived-report/article65781110.ece