A video of children between the ages of 4 and 14 at an Islamic Education Center in Houston, Texas, raises alarms about the Iranian regime's efforts to encourage Islamist indoctrination in the country. The original piece, initially posted on YouTube and Facebook by the Islamic center was later removed, however, the clips remain online.
In the footage, a group of children can be seen singing a new Iranian religious hymn called Salam Farmande, whose English translation is: "Hello Commander". The letter pledges allegiance to the Mahdi, a figure who represents the messiah in Islam. Islam Shiite is the religion of the government of Iran. The song is considered a pledge of support for Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whom believers consider the representative of the Mahdi on earth. Farsi lyrics, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, calls for children to become martyrs for the supreme leader:
Seyed Ali is calling his children, his soldiers, who were born in the 2010s. In spite of my age, I will be the commander of your army.... Don't look at my young age. May my father and mother be sacrificed for you. I will sacrifice everything for you. I vow, one day when you need me. I vow to be your martyr, Ali. It has been a long time, every nation is full of tears, do not worry, O my Allah, your soldiers are here without fear.
Video of the event: hundreds of children in Texas singing lines such as "I make an oath...one day when you need me, I will be your martyr. "pic.twitter.com/c0kFgFpmsA https://t.co/AUtBSKcTe4
- Gabriel Noronha (@GLNoronha) July 28, 2022
The educational center (CEI), according to various media reports, has a history of supporting the Iranian regime. In 2019, it celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, singing: "Khamenei is our leader... We are his soldiers." And in the month of July, The Houston Center organized a lecture on the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the late Ruhollah Khomeini, referring to him as the great reformer.
Activist criticism and government response
Iranian activist Hanif Jazayeri posted on social media a screenshot of the center's official website showing the video. And, in addition, it was noted that someone who had been promoting the event on Twitter, had IP address in Iran.
The video was apparently filmed on July 22 at the IEC
Flyers were posted earlier on Twitter/Telegram asking parents to bring boys/girls aged 4-14
This tweet author (whose IP shows up as in Iran) wrote in Farsi: "There isn't long to go until the White House turns into a Mosque!" pic.twitter.com/OB0V4HZWft
- M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) July 28, 2022
News media outlet, Just the News, sent a formal request for comment to the Department of Homeland Security, it was never answered. However, the Houston office of the FBI decided to issue a statement to them:
We will not comment specifically on the video they are referring to," a spokesman said. "However, it is important to note that the FBI does not initiate or investigate any matter based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment, or the race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation of any person or organization. The FBI investigates activities that may constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security. We do not focus on membership in particular groups, but on criminal activity.
The National Intelligence Directorate warned earlier this year that Iran was reportedly committed to further developing networks within the United States in order to spread its ideology. The Intelligence Community's 2022 Annual Threat Assessment notes that:
Iran will continue to threaten U.S. interests as it attempts to entrench its influence and project power to minimize threats to government stability. The Iranian regime sees itself locked in an existential struggle with the United States and its regional allies as it pursues its long-standing ambitions for regional leadership.