A London school whose children sang in an Iranian propaganda video that alluded to a myth about massacring Jews - The School of the Islamic Republic of Iran - has been referred to the Department for Education (DfE) Counter-Extremism Division, according to a Thursday report from the Jewish Chronicle.
The song, Salam Farmande (Hello Commander), was first published in 2021 in Iran by a group called "Mah" (an abbreviation of the "Nation of Imam Hosayn" in Persian).
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.
Consistent failure of school inspections
The video recording, in November, followed an October report by school inspection agency Ofsted that declared the school "inadequate" overall.
"The arrangements for safeguarding are not effective," read the report. "Leaders, including the proprietor and the governing body, have not ensured that they and staff have received up-to-date safeguarding training."
The report also noted: "During the inspection, inspectors reviewed the books in the school library. Inspectors found a non-fiction book with adult content that was inappropriate for the age of pupils using the library. The book was located on a shelf alongside books aimed for primary-age pupils."
There were a variety of other concerns regarding older students' ability to learn a wide variety of subjects and get adequate career counseling.
Ofsted has been inspecting The School of the Islamic Republic of Iran since it opened in the mid-2000s. All standard inspections since 2016 have come out as "inadequate" and required follow-up inspections.
Referral to the Counter-Extremism Division
The referral to the Counter-Extremism Division was triggered by complaints from local parents whose children attend other schools in area and who became concerned after reading an initial report on the school in the Jewish Chronicle. An email sent this week to one family, according to the Jewish Chronicle, stated that their complaint was being handled by the DfE’s Counter-Extremism Division, and requested further information.
In explaining its role, the DfE told the Chronicle, “we consider allegations concerning staff or governors expressing or promoting extremist views or being involved in extremist activity, policies or teaching in a manner that could create a permissive environment for extremism within an education setting… which undermines the effectiveness of safeguarding.”
A similar instance in the US
In July 2022, children in Houston, Texas were seen in a video shared by Iranian media singing the same "Hello Commander" song while wearing headbands, waving flags and saluting. The children sang the song in English and Persian.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.