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Dhaka Tribune

Rushdie attacker’s mother: My son returned to US as religious zealot

Matar’s mother claims she could not say more about her son’s life after his 2018 Lebanon trip

Update : 15 Aug 2022, 11:28 PM

The mother of the alleged Iranian sympathizer accused of attacking Salman Rushdie revealed how her American-raised son took a month-long trip to the Middle East and came back a religious zealot, reports Daily Mail. 

Silvana Fardos revealed in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com that she expected her son Hadi Matar to come back from the 2018 trip “motivated”, but instead, her once outgoing and popular son returned a “moody introvert”. 

He would lock himself in the basement and refuse to speak to his family for months, she added

As FBI agents raided her Fairview, New Jersey home on Friday afternoon, it was the first time she learned of the frenzied stabbing of acclaimed author Rushdie.

Silvana said that FBI agents seized a number of items from her son’s basement apartment – including a computer, PlayStation, books, knives and a tool to sharpen blades.

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

Rushdie’s life has been under threat since 1989 when the late Ayatollah Khomeini — leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution — issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie for his famous book “The Satanic Verses”.

Silvana, who is Lebanese and born Muslim, said she didn’t know if her son had ever read Rushdie’s book, but detected he had become more religious since his trip.

She added that he would criticize her for not giving him a strict Muslim upbringing. 

“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,” the arrestees mother continued.

She further said: “I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset and shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.”

“To tell you the truth I never heard of this 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 was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from the southern border town of Yaroun, a stronghold of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.

He grew up and went to school in Cudahy, California, before his mom divorced his father Hassan Matar in 2004. Her ex-husband returned to the Middle East while she moved to New Jersey for a fresh start.

It was on a trip to Lebanon in 2018 to visit his father that Hadi changed from a popular, loving son to a moody introvert, according to Silvana.

“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,” she told DailyMail.com.

“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.”

Silvana Fardos said that she could not say more about her son’s life since 2018 as he would ignore her and remain isolated.

“He sleeps during the day and wakes and eats during the night. He lives in the basement. He cooks his own food.”

Silvana had noticed that her son was becoming more religious and he would criticize her for not giving him a strict Muslim upbringing.

“He also barred her from entering his basement abode which is directly under the $700,000, four-bed home where she lives with his twin sisters, aged 14,” she observed

“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,” Silvana added.

She said that she had been living a simple life there for 26 years, trying to keep a roof above her family’s head and feeding her 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.”

Matar, whose now-deleted Facebook page is plastered with pics of Iranian politicians, rushed onto the stage Friday morning at a literary festival in upstate New York as Rushdie was announced.

He stabbed the Booker Prize-winning author multiple times before being pinned to the ground by horrified witnesses and apprehended by a state trooper.

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital and placed on a ventilator but has since recovered enough to speak and remains his “feisty and defiant” self, his son Zafar announced on Monday.

Matar was understood to be using a fake drivers license under the name Hassan Mughniyah when he committed the botched assassination.

The current leader of Hezbollah is named Hassan Nasrallah while one of its most notorious commanders was called Imad Mughniyeh. It listed his address as an apartment in West New York, New Jersey, but the unit’s owner told DailyMail.com she had never heard of either Matar or Mughniyeh.

Matar never had a job, never had a girlfriend but did join a local boxing gym three months ago before abruptly cancelling his membership last week.

Despite his growing zeal for Islam he never dressed any differently, leading Silvana to hope it was just a passing phase.

“When I heard he had joined a gym I was happy,” added his mom, a special aid assistant teacher and high school Arabic translator.

“I had been encouraging him to get a job, go back to school. He did actually start a job a few months ago at Marshalls,” she said, adding: “He even shared with me that he was going back to school in September to study cyber security which I was super excited about.”

“I felt like he was in a long-term depression and now it was time for him to recover and come back to life, to come back to his family.”

Fighting tears, she added, “I have not watched the video of what happened, I don’t want to. All I know is what was written.”

“The FBI gave me a document to sign saying they had taken his computer, his PlayStation, some books, some other items including knives and a sharpener. I feel sorry for Mr Rushdie. I hope he recovers but there’s nothing much I can say or do because this wasn’t my act,” she added.

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