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Salman Rushdie stabbing suspect reportedly describes author as ‘someone who attacked Islam’

A grand jury has indicted the man who allegedly stabbed Salman Rushdie as the acclaimed author prepared to give a talk in western New York, county prosecutors said Thursday.

Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., is scheduled to appear on the charges at an afternoon court hearing in Chautauqua County. Matar was arrested Aug. 12 after he allegedly rushed the stage at the Chautauqua Institution, stabbing Rushdie multiple times in front of a horrified crowd.

Initial charges were filed the next day, when Matar’s court-appointed lawyer entered a ‘not guilty’ plea on his behalf. The prosecutor’s office did not immediately release the new charges.

Suspect reportedly surprised Rushdie survived

Matar reportedly said in an interview published Wednesday that he was surprised to learn the accomplished author had survived the attack.

Speaking to the New York Post from jail, Matar said he decided to see Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution after he saw a tweet last winter about the writer’s planned appearance.

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“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” Matar told the newspaper. “He’s someone who attacked Islam. He attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Matar, 24, said he considered late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini “a great person” but wouldn’t say whether he was following a fatwa, or edict, issued by Khomeini in Iran in 1989 that called for Rushdie’s death after the author published The Satanic Verses.

Iran has denied involvement in the attack. Matar said he hadn’t had any contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He told the Post he had only read “a couple pages” of The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, according to his agent, in the attack Friday. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said his condition has improved and he is on the road to recovery.

Matar, who is charged with attempted murder and assault, told the Post he took a bus to Buffalo the day before the attack and then took a Lyft for the 65-kilometre trip from there to Chautauqua. He allegedly bought a pass to the Chautauqua Institution grounds and then slept in the grass the night before Rushdie’s planned talk.

Matar was born in the U.S. but holds dual citizenship in Lebanon, where his parents were born. His mother has told reporters in interviews that Matar came back changed from a visit to see his father in Lebanon in 2018. After that, he became moody and withdrew from his family, she said.

LISTEN | The fatwa on Salman Rushdie, 3 decades later:

Front Burner29:03The fatwa on Salman Rushdie, 3 decades later

The writer Salman Rushdie is still recovering in hospital from a brutal attack at a literary event last Friday. A young man rushed onstage and stabbed Rushdie nearly a dozen times, leaving him with injuries so severe he may lose an eye. While Rushdie himself has never been attacked like this before, this isn’t the first attempt on his life. He has been targeted by death threats ever since the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The fatwa was over Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, parts of which some Muslims consider blasphemous. The uproar over the book led to huge protests in many countries, pushed Rushdie into hiding for nearly a decade, and led to the deaths of several people around the world. In England, where Rushdie was based, many people believe it also transformed U.K. society — particularly relations between British Muslims and non-Muslims. Today, we’re looking back at The Satanic Verses affair and its long-term impacts with Mobeen Azhar, a BBC journalist and filmmaker. He’s made a documentary about it, The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On, and a podcast, Fatwa. We’ll also hear from celebrated British novelist and playwright Hanif Kureishi, who is a longtime friend of Rushdie’s.

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