The New Jersey man accused of attacking author Salman Rushdie in western New York last week told The New York Post in an interview on Wednesday he didn’t think the author would survive.
The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, also praised Iran’s ayatollah in the exclusive jailhouse interview from the Chautauqua County Jail.
“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” Matar told The Post.
The 24-year-old wouldn’t say if he was inspired by the late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989 over the author’s book “The Satanic Verses,” citing a warning by his lawyer.
“I respect the ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that,” Matar replied, noting he only “read a couple pages” of Rushdie’s controversial novel.
The accused stabber denied being in contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and said he was inspired to go to Chautauqua after seeing a tweet announcing Rushdie’s visit sometime in the winter.
“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” he said about Rushdie. “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.”
Matar — who has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault — described to The Post how he took a bus to Buffalo the day before he allegedly attacked Rushdie, and then grabbed a Lyft to Chautauqua.
“It’s a nice place,” he said, referring to the Chautauqua Institution.
“I was hanging around pretty much. Not doing anything in particular, just walking around,” he added, saying he slept in the grass Thursday night. “I was just outside the whole time.”
While less familiar with Rushdie’s written work, Matar said he watched videos of the author on YouTube.
“I saw a lot of lectures,” he said. “I don’t like people who are disingenuous like that.”
Eyewitnesses said that Rushdie was stabbed 10 to 15 times during Friday’s attack. Rushdie fell to the floor immediately, as the attacker was restrained, they added.
Rushdie, who was taken to hospital by helicopter and treated for stab wounds to his liver, arm, and one eye, may lose the use of one of his eyes.
Rushdie since 1989 has been the target of an Iranian fatwa calling for his murder for allegedly blaspheming Islam and its prophet Mohammed in his book "The Satanic Verses."
In 2012, an Iranian foundation added another $500,000 to the reward for killing Rushdie, raising the total bounty for his death to $3.3 million.
Rushdie spent a decade in hiding after Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued the 1989 fatwa against him for his book.
Although Iran's foreign ministry in 1998 assured Britain that Iran would do nothing to implement the fatwa, current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in January 2005 reaffirmed that Rushdie was considered an apostate whose murder was authorized under Islam.