TEHRAN, Aug. 20, 1978 (UP) - The emergence of Moslem fanatics sworn to overthrow Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi reflects a deepening resentment and fear of Iran's swing to modernity, which has been bolstered by $20 billion a year in oil revenues.
Their appearance - starkly marked by the burning of a cinema and the deaths of 377 men, women and children Saturday night - worries more moderate opponents of the government who are waiting to see the shah make good on promises of reform.
The extremists include Shiite Moslem clergymen and are believed to have close ties to a group of terrorists active in Iran since the early 1960s.
They have recently established contact with Palestinian extremists, according to government spokesman Dariush Homayun, and some have even gone abroad for training, other officials said.
Their avowed leader is Ayatollah Khomeini, an extremist anti-shah clergyman who showers his followers with pamphlets and tracts from his exile in radical Iraq, home to some of the more radical leftist Palestinian factions.
Some extremist Moslem leaders interviewed recently by United Press International said they would not rest until the shah is toppled. They reject the shah's reforms and want a return to an idealistic "Islamic government" run by the priests.
The shah has dubbed this connection between conservative clergy and radical leftists as an "unholy alliance of black reaction and red terror," an allusion to the black robes of the priests and red banner of the Communists.
For the more moderate opponents of the government, the question of loyalties is complicated by the fact that to an extent they, too, take orders from Khomeini, though they tailor his directives to conform with their own beliefs.
The Abadan tragedy may prove decisive in determining the relationship between the fanatics and moderates and establishing the intentions of both groups.
While the extremists are not likely to claim responsibility, the killing of 377 innocent citizens will bring tremendous pressure on the moderate opposition to separate itself from the act by condemning the fanatics.
The fanatic Moslems have hit at most targets despised by them as "non-Islamic." These include banks, hated because of their "non-Islamic" system of charging interest on bank deposits, nightclubs and liquor stores.
Khomeini, in a recent circular, also asked Iranians to boycott Israeli goods in what is believed to be a measure taken with the Palestinians.
Western foreigners have become targets in bombings directed at restaurants and nightclubs, including an Aug. 1 bombing attack on the stronghold of Isfahan, in south Iran.
Iranian officials say the fanatic Moslems are in fact people "misled" by the Communists. However, indications are that some of the youths taking part in recent terrorist activities acted out of devotion to martyrdom propagated by the Shiite priests.