Salman Rushdie attack suspect says he only read two pages of Satanic Verses

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The man accused of stabbing Salman Rushdie in upstate New York says he only ever read two pages of The Satanic Verses and admits he is “surprised” the author survived the knife attack, a report says.

Hadi Matar, 24, made the admission in a video interview from behind bars at the Chautauqua County Jail where he is being held on charges of attempted murder and assault.

“I read a couple pages. I didn’t read the whole thing cover to cover,” he told The New York Post about reading Mr Rushdie’s controversial novel that saw Iranian leaders place a fatwah on the author’s head, ordering Muslims to kill him.

Mr Rushdie, 75, was attacked on stage at an event on Friday as he was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution.

Police say that he was stabbed at least 10 times in the frenzied attack, and suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye. He remains hospitalised but is now able to talk with his family, his agent has said.

“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” he told the Post.

The suspect, who is from New Jersey, praised Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the fatwah, but would not say if that is what inspired the attack.

“I respect the Ayatollah.. I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that,” Mr Matar told the newspaper.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

He went on to deny that he had been in contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard but said he went to the author’s event after seeing it advertised over the winter.

“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person. I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much,” he said about Mr Rushdie.

“He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Despite not having read much of Mr Rushdie’s writings, the suspect, who has pleaded not guilty o the charges against him, said he had watched his lectures on YouTube.

“I saw a lot of lectures. I don’t like people who are disingenuous like that,” he said.

He told the Post that the day before the attack he took a bus to Buffalo and then a Lyft to Chautauqua, where the Institution is based on more than 2,00 acres.

“It’s a nice place,” he said. “I was hanging around pretty much. Not doing anything in particular, just walking around.

He added that he slept on the grounds on Thursday night before the attack took place the next day.