Children in Houston sing religious anthem associated with Iranian regime

The song is primarily addressed to a messianic figure in Shi'ite belief, but it also addresses the supreme leader of Iran.

Shi'ite children in Houston, Texas were seen in a video shared by Iranian media singing a song often used as a sort of religious anthem that also supports the Islamic Republic of Iran while wearing headbands, waving flags and saluting. The children sang the song in English and Persian.

The song, Salam Farmande (Hello Commander), was first published last year in Iran by a group called "Mah" (an abbreviation of the "Nation of Imam Hosayn" in Persian).

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The song is written from the perspective of a child singing about his dedication to Muhammad al-Mahdi, a messianic deliverer who according to Islamic belief will fill the earth with justice and equity and redeem Islam. The lyrics describe the child as insisting that despite his young age, he will "sacrifice everything" and serve al-Mahdi.

In the 9th century CE, the representative of Imam Hasan al-Askari, the eleventh Imam in Twelver Shia belief, claimed that the imam, who was killed had a son named Muhammad who was being kept hidden from the public out of fear of persecution. According to Twelver Shia belief, al-Mahdi will reappear at the end of time.

The original song in Persian makes references to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, with one line stating "I promise to be your Haj Qasem."

Iranian and pro-Iranian media have published videos of children singing the song in multiple languages in groups in Iran and in other countries.

According to the Iranian YJC news agency, the creators of the song have stressed that the commander referred to in the song is al-Mahdi.

The children in the video from Houston waved flags reading "O mahdi," referring to al-Mahdi. The English lyrics do not include the mention of Soleimani, but the Persian lyrics sung by the children do include the allusion to Khamenei.

The video was posted on Tuesday on the "Houston Azadari" channel which has been active since October 2011 and has over 12,000 subscribers. Azadari, meaning "mourning," refers to a set of commemoration rituals practiced mostly by Shi'ite Muslims to mourn the death of Imam Husayn ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala.

Mourning in remembrance of Imam Husayn's death is practiced by Shi'ite Muslims on the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram. The month of Muharram is set to begin this weekend.

"Sending (Salute commander) Salam Farmande," read the description of the video. "The hidden sun behind the clouds. The Divine (sic.) authority was kept behind the curtains. Indeed our Imam loves us, and we all are waiting for his re-appearance. Shia community of Houston, all parents and kids made the effort to come together and record this beautiful song to send our allegiance to our Imam a.s."

The channel also shares videos from the Ali Center — Azakhana-e-Zehra Buturab school in Houston although it's unclear if the two are officially affiliated. Azakhana-e-Zehra is a monument used by the Shi'ite community to mourn the death of Imam Husayn.

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