On February 14, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the world’s 200 million Shiite Muslims, issued a fatwa condemning British author Salman Rushdie. A fatwa is a legal judgment issued by a Muslim scholar. This fatwa was a death threat issued against Rushdie, who had recently published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses
 
The Satanic Verses had already been protested by Muslim groups around the world for its depiction of imagined episodes in the life of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. The ayatollah said Rushdie and his publishers were “against Islam, the prophet, and the Quran.” 
 
Rushdie went into semi-seclusion for ten years and was never injured. Bookstores in the United Kingdom and the United States were bombed, however, and dozens of people died in anti-Rushdie incidents in Pakistan, India, and Turkey. The book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death, while its Norwegian publisher was shot.
 
The government of Iran withdrew support for Khomeini’s fatwa in 1998, although Khomeini’s spiritual successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, has upheld the death threat.
ayatollah
Noun

title for an elite Shia (or Shiite) Muslim leader.

condemn
Verb

to sentence someone to punishment.

depict
Verb

to illustrate or show.

fatwa
Noun
legal judgment on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized religious authority.
incident
Noun

event or happening.

Islam
Noun

religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

Muslim
Adjective

having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

novel
Noun

fictional narrative or story.

publish
Verb

to provide a written piece of work, such as a book or newspaper, for sale or distribution.

Quran
Noun

holy book of the Islamic religion.

scholar
Noun

educated person.

Shiite
noun, adjective

branch of Islam that honors Mohammed's son-in-law Ali.

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