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Muhammad Khatami

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

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    Muhammad Khatami

    1943 –

    President of Iran

    In 1997 Shi'i cleric Muhammad Khatami was elected as the fifth president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He easily won his bid for reelection in 2001 . His supporters praise him as a reformer and a moderating influence in Iranian society. Critics claim that he has taken few real steps toward promoting democracy in Iran.

    Born in central Iran, Khatami is the son of a well-known religious leader. His varied and extensive education includes traditional religious study as well as advanced degrees from Isfahan University and the University of Tehran, which were both secular institutions in Iran. During the 1960s and 1970s, Khatami participated in political activities to oppose the pro-Western policies of Iran's leader, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi . Following the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic republic, Khatami won a seat in parliament. In 1982 he became the head of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture. While serving in that post, Khatami removed some government restrictions on films, music, art, and literature. Fearing that his policies were un-Islamic, members of the Iranian parliament forced him to resign in 1992 .

    Five years later, Muhammad Khatami ran for president, promoting greater political tolerance and the creation of a civil society. He won around 70 percent of the vote. Khatami supports democracy and greater freedom in Iran in his public statements. However, he has been unable to enact serious reform because of the limitations on his authority under the Iranian constitution. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , known as the Supreme Leader, controls the armed forces, judiciary, security, and other important government functions. See also Iran.

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