Robin Wright's prescription for co-opting the more reasonable, law-abiding elements of Islam to dilute fundamentalist virulence [Outlook, Sept. 12] omits a critical factor: the reality of past behavior.

The West has reason to be suspicious of the Muslim extremists. Islam's fringe elements have embraced terrorism and, where they have succeeded, imposed a dictatorial rule that obliterates religious freedom and individual liberty.

In the 1970s Islamic fundamentalists in Iran instituted one of the harshest regimes the world has ever seen. In Afghanistan, the Taliban killed with impunity. In Fallujah and Najaf, reports indicate the same atmosphere of intolerance and harsh punishments has been imposed. In Beslan, the West saw Muslim terrorists' primal loathing toward non-Muslims that reduced children to the status of livestock.

Ms. Wright chided Western "prejudice" and its drawing of a "Green Curtain around the Muslim world" as the villain that seduces men and women to violence in Islam's name. This divide is not of America's making. It exists because of the stunning inhumanity of fundamentalist Islamic violence. Separating oneself from the repulsive is rational; rewarding terror-wielding Islamic extremists with a seat at the political table is not.

The law-abiding Muslim majority has a lot to prove. It is key to extinguishing Islamic fundamentalism's view that crimes against humanity are tolerable under some circumstances. Forgive us fearful Westerners if we do not bank on the likelihood that Muslims will defend the civilized world and their own faith from Islamic criminals.

When terrorism and rank indecency are no longer tolerated by the larger Muslim majority, perhaps in some regions even fundamentalist Islamic groups will be welcomed into the political process.

MARIA R. JORDAN

Potomac

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The Sept. 20 editorial "The Choice on Iran," while correctly describing Iran as "home to a militant Islamic regime that openly sponsors terrorism, foments anti-American resistance to Iraq and has confessed to a secret campaign to acquire the technology needed to produce nuclear weapon," did not mention that the regime also is engaged in ethnic cleansing and forced relocation.

Twenty-five million Azerbaijani Turks cannot study their own language or have local representative government, and they are demonized in Iran's media.

The 4.5 million indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in the southwestern province of Khuzestan are being forcibly relocated and live in poverty even though their ancestral lands produce more than 80 percent of the country's oil revenue. They do not have local representative government and are not allowed to study and speak their native tongues; no part of the oil revenue is being allocated to their area.

Eight million Kurds are being kept economically and socially backward; they also are not allowed to study their mother tongues, and their local officials are appointed by Tehran.

The same applies to 3 million Baluchis in the southeast province of Balochistan and more than 2 million Turkmen in the northeast province of Golestan. Like Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen are Sunnis who cannot have their own mosques.

To a lesser degree, other religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities such as Lors, Armenians, Assyrians, Bahais and Jews are being subjected to the same oppression. This is not to mention the obvious oppression against women. Moreover, the Iranian regime does not represent the democratic aspirations of the dominant Persian population.

KARIM ABDIAN

Clifton

The writer helps edit a Web site on ethnic minorities in Iran.