Ruling Iran 101

Your June 5 article, "Uneasy mix: Islam, democracy," reports that reformers believe President Mohammad Khatami is "the last best chance for a religious system that faces grave dangers if it is not reformed." The article points out that two-thirds of the people are under 30 years of age. Many know nothing of life under the Shah and have no memory of the revolution. Globalization and secularism challenge the underpinnings of the Islamic Republic.

Iranians belong to the Shi'ite branch of Islam, and before Ayatollah Khomeini, it was understood that secular government ruled in the absence of the Hidden Imam.The Imam Mahdi, twelfth in the line of descent from Ali, the Prophet Mohammad's cousin and son-in-law, disappeared in the ninth century. It is believed that the Imam continues to live, and will return to fill the earth with justice. When the Hidden Imam returns, secular government will be replaced by his rule. Government in his absence is not legitimate.

Now President Khatami has been re-elected by a large plurality. He has said, "The road is long and there are many obstacles in our way, but there is no other way in today's world than to establish the rule of the people." Since the people are so much influenced by globalization and secularism, and so little in tune with traditional Shi'ite Islam, it is hard to see how accommodations can be achieved.

J. Richard Irvine Pine, Ariz.

Be fair to Palestinians

Regarding your June 1 article "Palestinian Politics of Car Bombs": As one of the people interviewed for the article, I feel the need to respond.This title, without any mention of the reality of Israeli military occupation and settlement-building, is highly discriminatory. To neglect the Palestinian national resistance movement is another discriminatory tendency. I doubt whether you or any other reputable publication would have written an article about the French resistance titled "French Politics of Sabotage," without mentioning the German occupation. And a car bomb that scorches a tree is unremarkable. But a car bomb at the central police station of the Russian Compound? Why did your article neglect this fact?

True, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a small political party whose numbers have decreased, and yes, it is making an effort to increase its membership.But to glibly state that "violence has become smart politics," as if the violent resistance to military occupation were a move calculated to increase popularity, is misleading and simply unfair. The PFLP states that all kinds of resistance actions are legitimate, and indeed required, against Israeli military occupation. But as Mr. Mallouh states, the PFLP is against the killing of civilians.

Dr. Majed Nassar Beit Sahour, West Bank

Less time in the Macedonian Army

Concerning your May 21 article "Macedonians grow more radical": Allow me, as a Macedonian citizen and a fellow journalist, to correct one detail in your story.

Your article claims that Macedonian conscripts are required to spend two years in the army: "Sofronievski must serve two years in the military after graduation." Since Macedonia proclaimed independence 10 years ago, the longest military service for conscripts was 12 months - now it's 9 months. Even after Macedonia was attacked by the terrorists, the government continued its plans to slash it down to 6 months and make our army more professional.

Concerning your headline that Macedonians are growing more radical, I won't try to persuade you that we're a peaceful nation. But I would like you to make clear: We're not Israelis - we don't enjoy wearing uniforms and guns for years.

Cvetin Cilimanov Skopje, Macedonia

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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