Crash Course in Islam — Fatwa
>>STEVE ST. GEORGE: Hi. I'm Steve St. George, and this is your crash course in Islam. You may have heard the term fatwa before, especially if you're a fan of writer Selman Rushdie. You may think a fatwa is kind of a death sentence. Well it's not. A fatwa is simply an opinion handed down by an Islamic scholar about some aspect of Islamic law. For Sunni Muslims a fatwa is a non-binding opinion. For members of the Shia sect, it can be binding depending upon the scholar. While a fatwa may not necessarily be binding it can be used by judges when making legal decisions. Past fatwas have dealt with everything from banning the smoking of cigarettes by Muslims to banning the stockpiling of nuclear weapons by Muslim nations. Of course it was the media coverage of the Rushdie affair of the 1980s when Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa saying Rushdie should be put to death for his book The Satanic Verses, that the term fatwa became synonymous with death sentence. It's a misunderstanding that continues to be perpetuated by many in the media for Crash Course in Islam. I'm Steve St. George.