New Delhi: Author Salman Rushdie’s attacker Hadi Matar did not like him very much and saw him as someone who attacked Islam, according to a jailhouse interview published in the New York Post.
The 24-year-old New Jersey man, who stabbed Rushdie multiple times at a New York event last week, was also surprised that the author survived the attack.
“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” Matar said in a video interview from the Chautauqua County Jail.
Last Friday, Matar had rushed to the stage and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and abdomen when the author was about to give a lecture at an institute in western New York.
The vicious attack left the India-born author horribly injured. His agent had said Rushdie could lose an eye, the nerves in an arm were severed and his liver damaged. The author has been taken off the ventilator since and was “articulate”, according to the latest update on his recovery.
Matar told The Post that he respected late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwa on Rushdie in 1989 and urged Muslims to kill him after the release of his novel “The Satanic Verses”.
“I respect the ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that,” Matar told the interviewers, revealing he had only read “like two pages” of Rushdie’s controversial novel.
“I didn’t read the whole thing cover to cover,” he said.
He was also vague when asked if he was inspired by Khomeini, saying: “I respect the ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that.”
Matar also denied being in touch with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and said he acted alone.
On Rushdie, he was emphatic about his feelings: “I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person. 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.”
Though less familiar with Rushdie’s written work, Matar told interviewers that he had seen several videos of the author on YouTube. “I saw a lot of lectures. I don’t like people who are disingenuous like that,” he said.
Matar said he was made aware of Rushdie’s lecture at the Chautauqua Institution through a tweet in the winter. He took a bus from New Jersey a day before the attack, and then a cab to Chautauqua.
Matar was born in the US to parents from southern Lebanon. He apparently spent a month in the country in 2018 to visit his father, but came back “more religious”.
His mother, who has disowned Matar, said the visit changed him and that he became more religious and isolated himself in the basement.
Matar is being held without bail, “in part because prosecutors feared he would be awarded a bounty for the attack”, The Post reported. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from the attack.