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The front page of the Iranian newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz, with the title reading in Farsi: 'Knife in the neck of Salman Rushdie,' in the capital Tehran on Aug. 13, 2022, a day after a man stabbed Rushdie on stage in western New York.ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian-Canadian activists and community leaders say the stabbing attack of Salman Rushdie is a high-profile example of how the Iranian regime can pose a real threat to them, even outside of the Middle East.

The motive behind Mr. Rushdie’s stabbing in western New York state has not been confirmed, but Iranian community leaders in Canada said the influence that the Iranian government has had against Mr. Rushdie can’t be understated. A fatwa, or religious decree, calling for Mr. Rushdie’s death was first declared by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s then-supreme leader, in 1989, after his book The Satanic Verses was deemed to be blasphemous.

Jason Schmidt, the district attorney in the court proceedings against Mr. Rushdie’s alleged attacker, has alluded to the fatwa as a potential motive, saying he understands the attacker carried out an agenda “sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County,” where the attack happened.

Ram Joubin, a refugee lawyer in Vancouver and president of the Alliance of Iranian Canadians, has seen first-hand the impact that Iran’s government can have on people. He helped a Kurdish translator for The Satanic Verses escape Iran in 2011, and has watched as Iranian-Canadians received threats within Canada for speaking out against the government in Tehran.

“As a refugee lawyer, I see it all the time where someone from Iran is fleeing, comes to Canada and there are people in Canada making threats to them,” said Mr. Joubin, who said there have been previous attacks against Iranian immigrants in the Western world that have links to the Iranian regime, such as the killing of three Iranian opposition leaders and a translator in a Berlin restaurant in 1992.

“It’s that type of mentality that turns into reality unfortunately.”

Iranian-Canadians say they want law enforcement to take seriously the regular threats made against expats by representatives of the Iranian government.

In Iran, reaction was mixed after the stabbing of Mr. Rushdie. Some Iranians praised the alleged assailant, while others worried whether the incident would further isolate Iran in the global community. The Iranian government was quiet after the attack, although the conservative newspaper Khorosan bore an image of Mr. Rushdie with the headline, “Satan on the path to hell.”

In Canada, Mr. Joubin said that while some Iranians are not fans of Mr. Rushdie and his book, everyone in his community was upset by the attack.

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Avideh Motmaen-Far, president of the Toronto-based Council of Iranian Canadians, said she has received daily anonymous threats and dealt with constant hacking attempts on her social-media accounts for years, as a result of her politically involved role that sees her meeting with members of Parliament.

Once, she said she received notification from a social-media platform that she should beef up her security measures because it was believed to be a government entity that was trying to hack her account.

“At some point it gets to you. I’m the mother of a child and I want to protect my family,” said Ms. Motmaen-Far, who said she regularly drives circles around her neighbourhood to ensure she isn’t being followed.

Payman Parseyan, former president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said he’d like to see the federal government take threats made against refugees and Iranians in Canada more seriously.

He noted that while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians denounced the attack, he would have liked to see a more pointed rebuke of the Iranian government.

On Saturday, Mr. Trudeau took to Twitter to denounce the attack and wished Mr. Rushdie a speedy recovery.

“The cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie is a strike on the freedom of expression that our world relies on,” he said. “No one should be threatened or harmed on the basis of what they have written.”

In Mr. Parseyan’s opinion, the stand from the federal government fell short. He wanted Mr. Trudeau to point a finger directly at the Iranian regime.

“The expats of Iran who live here and in the United States continue to say that the Iranian regime poses a danger to Iranian expats living abroad,” he said.

With a report from The Associated Press

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