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The Islamic term ""fatwa"" became known in the West after Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a sentence of death on Salman Rushdie and the publishers of his book, ""The Satanic Verses"". Almost a decade later, Rushdie continues to live in hiding.;Mehdi Mozaffari argues that Khomeini's command was not a ""fatwa"", and that his personal order violates Islamic and Iranian law. In an account based on documentation and arguments, Mozaffari defines ""fatwa"" and traces its use as an instrument of power as well as a tool and justification for resistance throughout Islamic history. He gives no personal opinion on ""The Satanic Verses"" but argues that the text is insensitive to Moslem beliefs.;The book reviews ""blasphemy"" in Judaism, Christianity, and Shi'a and Sunni Moslem texts. The author probes Khoneini's personality for clues into what he views as the imam's personal revenge against Rushdie. He discusses the economic origins of Shi'a violence as well as Shi'a history in an attempt to uncover why a quietist sect transformed itself into a violent one. In conclusion, Mozaffari argues that most religions only promise salvation, not freedom of speech or democracy.;The arguments in this book should be helpful in understanding fundamentalist Moslem movements in Iran and, it is hoped, in rendering Rushdie's sentence invalid.