The man who allegedly stabbed Sir Salman Rushdie on stage at an event in New York said he was “surprised” to learn the famous writer was alive after the attack.
Hadi Matar, 24, said 75-year-old Lord Salman was “a man who attacked Islam” but confirmed his actions were triggered by a fatwa issued by Iran in the 1980s. I didn’t.
Matar has pleaded not guilty to charges arising from the assault through his attorney and is currently in custody at Chautauqua County Jail in New York.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday.
“I was surprised when I heard he survived,” he told the New York Post in a video interview from prison.
Matar said he had originally planned to go to the event at the Chautauqua Institute after seeing a tweet announcing Lord Salman’s appearance.
“I don’t like him. I don’t think he’s very nice. I don’t like him very much.
“He is the one who attacked Islam. He attacked their beliefs, their belief systems.”
Lord Salman published his famous novel Satanic Verses in 1988, and as a result Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 demanding his death.
However, Matar told the New York Post that he had only read “a few pages” of the book, and did not say whether the fatwa inspired him.
“I admire Ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s all I have to say about it,” he said.
The event’s host said his concerns were about the writer himself, as well as “what he means to the world.”
Henry Reese told the BBC that the attack highlighted the values that Lord Salman stands for.
Reese, who suffered severe bruising from the accident, said it would be “my ideal” to return to the venue one day and continue the conversation with Sir Salman.
“That’s my ideal, to see it happen and never get in the way of what we’re trying to do,” he said.
“It’s about showing that these values are both defended and can be defended.”
Despite his “life-changing” injury, Lord Salman has retained his “usual feisty and rebellious sense of humor,” his family said.
The author suffered liver damage and severed nerves in his arms and eyes, but was taken off the ventilator on Saturday.