Mother of Salman Rushdie stabbing suspect says he ‘changed’ after Middle East trip

Author was stabbed nearly 10 times on stage in New York, and remains in critical condition

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 15 August 2022 08:00 BST

Related video: The moment audience members rushed the stage as Salman Rushdie was attacked

The mother of the 24-year-old suspect accused of attempting to murder Sir Salman Rushdie says the man "changed" from being a "popular, loving son" to a "moody introvert" after visiting the Middle East in 2018.

Sir Salman, 75, was stabbed nearly 10 times, including in the neck and the abdomen, on Friday by a man who rushed onto the stage as the author was about to give a lecture in New York.

His novel The Satanic Verses, considered blasphemous by some Islamist leaders, has drawn death threats for decades, including a fatwa from Iran’s former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s.

A suspect arrested in the attack on Sir Salman, identified as Hadi Matar, has appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

Silvana Fardos, the mother of the accused, said that her son was "responsible for his actions" and she wasn't even aware who the author was.

Ms Fardos, 46, shared her New Jersey home with her son and said she learned about the incident when her daughter called her to inform her about FBI agents at her door.

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

She said that her son had taken a trip to Lebanon to meet his father Hassan Matar in 2018. “He stayed for approximately 28 days but the trip did not go well with his father. He felt very alone,” she said.

Mr Matar, upon his return, lived in the basement, slept during the days and woke up and ate during the night, she said. He was born in the US to Lebanese parents.

“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.”

Ms Fardos noticed her son was becoming more religious when he questioned her about not introducing him to Islam at a young age. "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.

"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."

Mr Matar has been charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault by the Chautauqua County district attorney’s office.

Meanwhile, Sir Salman has been taken off a ventilator and was able to utter a few words, but remains in critical condition following Friday’s attack.

“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact,” said his son Zafar Rushdie.

Sir Salman’s agent, Andrew Wylie, reported that the writer’s “road to recovery has begun”, although he suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye.

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