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The remaining Muslims are members of the Sunni sect of Islam.

There are minority Christian (about 300,000), and Jewish (about 25,000 in 1984) populations, as well as Zoroastrians (about 30,000) and Baha'i (about 350,000).

Their founder and first ruler, Shah Ismail, tried to unify the conglomeration of loosely united tribes scattered through the land by their conversion to Shi'ism as the state religion.

By the eleventh century, the religion of Islam dominated the plateau and the advanced Persian sciences, literature, and learning had seduced the leaders of more than one invading army, including Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century and Tamerlane in the fourteenth.In discussing possible reasons for the paucity of material available on the Iranian immigrant community in the United States, Diane M.Hoffman summarized its basic characteristics: "The relative recency of the large-scale influx of Iranians (many of whom arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s), their relatively affluent socioeconomic background, their great religious, political, and ethnic heterogeneity, and their lack of well-defined geographic communities and internal cohesiveness are characteristics that make their status as a minority community somewhat problematic." This attitude parallels the traditional self-image of the Shi'ism as a minority that must fight off a hostile majority, a paradigm taken from the martyrdom of Husain, commemorated annually during the month of Muharram.Reza Shah, whose sympathies leaned toward the Nazis at the start of World War II, was forced to abdicate to his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980), in 1941 by Britain and the Soviet Union, which had established a presence in the country in order to block Nazi influence in the region.Some see the first episode of the Cold War in the Soviets' refusal to remove their troops from Iran until forced to do so by the United States and the newly formed United Nations in 1946.

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