Reporters on the Job

Counting Heads: When reporters are granted an interview with someone of public stature, they often wonder what the motive of the interviewee may be. When Scott Peterson tracked down Iran's Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who had until earlier this year been under house arrest for half a decade in the holy city of Qom, he didn't have to wait long to find out.

Before Scott could ask his first question about Iranian politics (page 1), the cleric told him that he was slightly miffed with another American newspaper. A writer and editor had recently been to visit - and hadn't published what the cleric considered to be the "most important" part of the interview. He went on at length that Jews made up 2 percent of the US population, and the population of the state of Israel was 6 million, but there were 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. "The US president ... is making a lot of resentment among Muslims, because you are supporting only this small minority," Mr. Montazeri said, expressing a view that echoes across Iran and the Islamic world.

David Clark Scott
World editor


Ban on Religious Accessories: President Jacques Chirac called Wednesday for a law banning Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps, and large Christian crosses from French state schools. "In all conscience, I consider that the wearing of dress or symbols which conspicuously show religious affiliation should be banned in schools," he said in a speech on the controversy over the role of religion in French public life.

As reported on Oct. 15, "France's first Muslim school raises hopes - and concern," Mr. Chirac's proposal was prompted by Muslims challenging schools that regularly expelled students for wearing head scarves. As their Muslim populations grow, other European nations are wrestling with this issue, too.

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