08/16/2022, 15.28
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Rushdie's assailant, (alleged) Lebanese radicalization and axis with Tehran

by Fady Noun

Hadi Matar's parents hail from the southern border village of Yaroun, a Hezbollah-controlled area from which they emigrated 30 years ago. Their adherence to extreme Islam occurred (perhaps) during a sojourn in 2018. The U.S. investigation and the implications for the Middle East region. Khamenei recalls that the fatwa against the writer is "solid and irrevocable".

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The assailant of British writer Salman Rushdie, who was attacked in New York State on Aug. 13, is of Lebanese origin. But was he radicalized specifically in Lebanon? Moreover did act alone or was he in the pay of someone? These are the questions being asked in the Land of the Cedars after it allegedly emerged from concordant sources that Hadi Matar and his parents hail from the southern border village of Yaroun (Bint Jbeil). A place abandoned at least 30 years ago, well before the birth of their eldest son. 

Interviewed by broadcaster Al-Jadid (NTV), Yaroun Municipal Council Chairman Ali Qassem Tahfa pointed out that Hadi Matar "was born and raised in the United States, but that his mother and father, now divorced, come from Yaroun." Without denying it, the municipal official remained evasive and vague about his father's presence in Lebanon. To the leading French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour (OLJ), the director general of security, General Abbas Ibrahim, said that Hadi Matar "never set foot in Lebanon." 

However, this statement was indirectly refuted by the person's mother, Silvana Fardos, who revealed in an interview with Britain's Daily Mail that her son stayed in Lebanon in 2018 to see his father, who had returned to his home country after separation. From being an "affectionate and young son like so many others," he turned after this stay "into an introverted and bad-tempered individual," the woman added. Upon his return, the newspaper explained, Hadi Matar "began to quarrel with his mother, whom he blamed for encouraging him to study instead of focusing on religion." 

From Silvana Fardos' revelations, it is easy to deduce that Hadi Matar's radicalization materialized precisely in Lebanon. We can therefore assume that the investigation opened in the United States will eventually head, sooner or later, in the direction of Lebanon. And it is equally evident that, pending an international letter rogatory to that effect from the American justice system, General Abbas Ibrahim, will deal directly with the matter - a very embarrassing case for the cedar country -, being able to count on the confidence of the U.S. authorities. After all, Washington's own top leadership has involved him on several occasions in the past in some sensitive affairs and most recently in the Austin Tice affair, an American photographer who disappeared in Damascus in 2012 and is still in the hands of kidnappers whose identity remains unknown. 

Given that Yaroun is located in a border constituency, an area in which few things happen without the blessing and control of the Party of God (Hezbollah), it is highly likely that the investigation in Lebanon will clash with efforts by the U.S. judiciary to ascertain whether Hadi Matar really did weave ties with the Pasdaran in Lebanon. Contacts with Iran's Revolutionary Guardians have been mentioned by some Iranian media outlets such as Vice World News, which relays sources interviewed on the guarantee of anonymity in Europe and the Middle East. 

Meanwhile  Iran, after three days of complete silence, "categorically" denied even the slightest involvement in the knife attack launched in the United States against Salman Rushdie, shifting the blame to the author of the "Satanic Verses." "We emphatically deny," Tehran Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani stressed in the weekly conference, "any link between the attacker and Iran," and "no one has the right to make accusations against the Islamic Republic. 

Indeed, if as it seems, Hadi Matar is close in ideology to the Islamic Republic, there is nothing to suggest for the moment that his act was done on command. "While the international nature of the extremist form of Iranian [Shiite] Islam is evident, we cannot say at this stage whether the man acted according to his own convictions, was inspired [by Tehran] or whether he acted at Iran's behest and at Iran's urging," Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a research associate at the Issam Farès Institute at the American University of Beirut, points out to the OLJ. However, it seems undeniable that some of the responsibility still falls on Iran, as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a message on Twitter in 2019 that it appears that the fatwa issued by his predecessor Khamenei against Rushdie is still "solid and irrevocable" today.

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