“Fatwa” being an Arabic word brings to our minds only an Islamic context which overshadows many other religions that have provisions resonating with fatwas but not labelled so. Every religion has at some point issued fatwas or decrees to maintain order within the society.
A fatwa is simply an opinion of an Islamic scholar about some aspects of Islam. Such decrees were intended to be merely a curative measure taken by the guardians of the society, or religion in this context when they felt that people were staying away from religious paths.
Back in time societies were mono-religious so the only threats were the people within their society, like the opposite gender, or a lower caste. So decrees or rulings or fatwas were issued to suppress the lower castes and females whenever they tried to reason or differed from opinions of the society. All misogynist and male-dominant religions have issued fatwas against women, as they thought that suppression of women will become impossible once they become aware of their rights, or pursue education.
And the functioning of their religion depended heavily on the submission of women. So when they felt that women were trying to rise to the position of power they felt threatened and issued a ruling aka fatwa. Similar rulings have been issued in casteist religions against the people of lower caste.As people began travelling and settling down in different regions societies became multi-religious. The consequence of which was every religion feeling threatened by the existence of a different religion that might become a cause of its extinction.
This threat has since been amplified and has started affecting all the major lawmakings of every religion. Now, these fatwas or rulings are issued against people who support the teachings of other religions, disagreed with their own or side with atheism. India being one of the most diverse countries has to deal with these insecurities and threats in the form of new fatwas and laws being sanctioned every now and then. More recently fatwas have become a method of extrapolating the ancient teachings of religious texts. It has become a detrimental procedure forcibly put on people’s heads to ensure the existence of their religion. In India Muslims being in minority feel threatened, and a few corrupt muftis take the easy way out by issuing fatwas instead of dealing with the situation.
Salman Rushdie (Fatwa issued in Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini) and Taslima Nasrin are one of the few people who took a stand for themselves, dared to have an opinion, dared to choose atheism and feminism. Turns out that having an opinion too threatens religious heads and they put a bounty of unlimited money on their heads as if they were terrorists and not social activists.
These religious heads and guardians of the religious law, when fail to deal with the societal issues, not be ready to evolve with time and instead just force their opinions on people in order to safeguard their religion the society becomes damned to hell. People will grow insecure and become confused between their own opinions and those directed by their religion epochs ago. This will also become a cause of the proliferation of atheism. And the fatwas that these guardians so wisely issue will prove to be counterproductive.