The mom of the alleged Iranian sympathizer accused of trying to murder Salman Rushdie has told how her outgoing, American-raised son took a month-long trip to the Middle East – and came back a religious zealot.
Distraught 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 he locked himself in the basement and refused to speak to his family for months.
As FBI agents raided her Fairview, New Jersey home on Friday afternoon, it was the first she was hearing of the frenzied stabbing of acclaimed author Rushdie.
She said a number of items FBI agents seized from her son’s basement apartment – including a computer, PlayStation, books, knives and a tool to sharpen blades.
Rushdie’s life has been under threat since 1989 when the late Ayatollah Khomeini – leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution – condemned his famous book, The Satanic Verses, as blasphemous and issued a fatwa calling for his death.
‘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.
Silvana Fardos, the mom of Hadi Matar, 24, the alleged Iranian sympathizer who is accused of trying to kill Salman Rushdie on Friday says her son took a trip to the Middle East – and came back a religious zealot
Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against ‘Satanic Verses’ author Salman Rushdie. He has entered a not-guilty plea on charges of attempted murder and assault
‘To tell you the truth I never heard of his 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.
‘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.
‘I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset, they’re shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.’
Matar was born in the US 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 returning 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.
‘I couldn’t tell you much about his life after that because he has isolated me since 2018. If I approach him sometimes he says hi, sometimes he just ignores me and walks away.
‘He sleeps during the day and wakes and eats during the night. He lives in the basement. He cooks his own food.’
Newly released mugshots show suspected knifeman Hadi Matar as he was detained in NYC
Matar was born in the US to Lebanese parents who emigrated to California where he went to school. His mom divorced his father and moved to New Jersey for a fresh start
Silvana Fardos detected that her son was becoming more religious and he would criticize her for not giving him a strict Muslim upbringing
Silvana also detected 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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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 today.
Salman Rushdie (pictured in Los Angeles in 2013) has now been taken off a ventilator and can speak. There had been fears he would be left unable to talk after the attack last week
Rushdie told a German magazine earlier this month that the fatwa against him no longer scared him. Here bystanders and staff tend to Mr Rushdie on stage after the attack
Author Salman Rushdie smiles as he attends a photocall with his book ‘Quichotte’ for the authors shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction at Southbank Centre in London
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.
‘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.’