This edition of Salman Rushdie's controversial novel The Satanic Verses is Iranian—and therefore illegal. A death sentence was issued against Rushdie from the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and although the government has withdrawn support for Rushdie's death, the book is still banned.

Photograph by Olaf Simons, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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  • 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.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    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.