A mosque in Texas has enlisted its children into a propaganda campaign legitimizing the Islamist regime in Iran that kept 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979 and 1980. The Islamic Education Center (IEC) in Houston did this by having dozens of young children perform an anthem titled "Salam Farmande" ("Hello Commander") and posting the performance on YouTube and publicizing it on Facebook.
The video shows young children standing in the IEC complex, led by a choir leader as they sing lyrics that alternate back and forth between Persian and English. In English, the children call on the Mahdi or 12th imam, a messianic figure in Shia Islam, to return and promising to be his soldier.
"In spite of my young age, I will be your army's commander," the children sing in English.
Videos of children singing the song first appeared in early June in commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The versions performed in Iran included a promise "to stand out like Haj Qassem Soleimani," who, by virtue of his status as the the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), oversaw the operations of the terrorist organization Hezbollah before he was killed by an American drone strike in 2020.
Since its first release in Iran, references to Soleimani have apparently been removed from the anthem in performances outside of Iran, Potkin Azarmehr, a London-based investigative journalist and TV producer, told FWI. "The lyrics have been watered down in the English version," he wrote in July. The song has been performed by children in Australia, France, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.
"Each one of these poor children is a potential future sleeper cell in America because the naïve authorities can't tell the difference between religious freedom and political indoctrination," Azarmehr told FWI. Officials from the IEC in Houston have not responded to a request for comment.
Adrian Calamel, an analyst specializing in the Middle East and terrorism, reports that the song is part of the recruitment drive for the Iranian regime. "It's enlisting the children to be the next generation of martyrs," he said. "The song itself says 'we are ready to die for the commander.'"
The song is extremely unpopular in Iran, Calamel reports. "Parents are angry," he said. "Children are being forced to memorize the lyrics in schools throughout the country."
Calamel warns that Shia mosques like the one in Houston are centers of Iranian influence in the United States. "Al-Aqaida can't set up these centers, ISIS can't set up these centers, but Iran can," he said.
Anyone involved in the promotion of this song in the U.S. should be investigated by law enforcement officials, he added.
"The people who run these centers are agents of the regime," he said, "directly tied to the regime. Everything is standardized. If it's taught in Tehran, it's taught in these centers in the U.S. To be a full-fledged imam at one of these centers, you have to toe the line from Khamenei."
In response to the song's release, activists have started a petition on Change.org calling on Spotify, an internet music streamer, to remove it from its play list. The purpose of the song, the petitioners state, "is to brainwash children and young generations to join radical Islamic movements," adding that the song legitimizes "the most horrifying dictator and terrorist in the world, Seyed Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of criminal Iranian regime."
Dexter Van Zile is managing editor of the Middle East Forum publication Focus on Western Islamism.