Assailant of Rushdie ‘changed’ by Lebanon trip: mother

The suspected assailant of British author Salman Rushdie was transformed by a visit to Lebanon in 2018 when he became more religious and less extroverted, his mother said.

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Born in Lebanon, Silvana Fardos of Fairview, New Jersey, disclosed her 24-year-old son Hadi Matar as a “bad-tempered introvert” increasingly obsessed with Islam after the visit to see his father.

“Once he argued with me about why I encouraged him to get an education rather than focus on religion,” she told the website of the British newspaper Daily Mail.

“He was angry because I didn’t teach him, Islam, from an early age,” she said in an interview.

Matar was arrested at the site of the attack on Rushdie, 75, during a literary event in northern New York State on Friday.

He pleaded not guilty the day after attempted murder and armed assault and is detained without bail.

Prosecutors described a planned and premeditated aggression against Rushdie, who was stabbed about 10 times. The police have not provided any information about the suspect’s history or a possible motive.

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Fardos said she was “shocked” to receive a phone call from one of her 14-year-old twin daughters telling her the FBI was at the family home and her son would be responsible for it.

I can’t believe he was capable of doing anything like this. He was very calm, everyone liked him,” she says.

Fardos said federal agents had pulled Matar’s computer, PlayStation, books, and other items, including knives and a pencil sharpener. Her son was “much changed ” after his trip to Lebanon, she said.

“I expected him to come back motivated, to finish his studies, graduate, and get a job, but instead he shut himself in the basement,” she said.

“I couldn’t tell you much about his life after that because he’s been isolating me since 2018,” and also didn’t tell the rest of his family much for months. “He sleeps through the day and wakes up and eats at night,” she says.

Fardos, a teacher’s assistant and translator, says she was born a Muslim, but she’s not religious and she doesn’t care about politics—and she’s never heard of Rushdie. “I was unaware that my son had read his book,” she said.

Matar was born in the USA and raised in California. Her parents divorced in 2004, and his father Hassan Matar was back in Lebanon, while Fardos moved to New Jersey, according to the Mail.

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