The Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, keeps referring to the "Hidden Imam" in his public speeches. This is a little like hearing an American president publicly saying that his policies are dictated by the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic fiction.
First, comparing the doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism to a series of trashy popular entertainments like the Left Behind books is not appropriate. A more apt (though still rough) comparison would be between Twelver Shi'ism and Christian Dispensationalism, but this is inconvenient because then one would have to recognize that a significant number of U.S. lawmakers are dispensationalists. (I'll have more on the Shi'ism-Dispensationalism comparison later, hopefully.)
Second, a question for Andrew: Why is a belief in the Hidden Imam any more strange than our President's (and Andrew's) belief in the returning Christ? And why should any Iranian (or any Muslim, for that matter) be less disturbed by Bush's God-talk than any American should be by Ahmedinejad's?