The World's Cutest Religious Cops [PHOTOS]

| Thu Dec. 16, 2010 5:07 PM EST

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Sadly, we've had to take Mehr News Agency's photos down from this post, but read the story and click through the links to see the amazing imagery.]

In Shi'a Islam, Thursday was one of the most important dates of the year: the Day of Ashura, when the faithful remember the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad and the cornerstone of the Shi'a lineage of religious imams. It's a day dedicated to pilgrimages, penitence, and social justice. But in Iran, where the government claims a mandate from Allah and his messenger, it's a strange amalgam of Islam and state worship. And this year, it comes on the heels of a shocking announcement by the Islamic Republic about its babies.

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The "private and non-official" Iranian media mouthpiece, Mehr News Agency, announced last week that newborn babies and tykes up to age seven can now join the Basij, the government's paramilitary squad most famous for cracking skulls (and brutally killing this young woman) on the streets of Tehran in last year's election riots. According to the LA Times translation, "Parents are invited to register their bouncing little baby boys and girls at the Basiji office in Tehran, where they can receive their membership cards." And that's just what the parents did:

[Photos removed; click here to view.]

Last month, at one colorful hootenanny for the brute force, Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatolllah Ali Khamenei said " said no group in the world has as many members as the Basij." But apparently they need more, and they gotta get 'em early.

For more adventures in pediatric theology, check out Mehr's amazing recent photos of newborns being gathered at the major mosques of Tehran here, here, here, and here. Here's a taste:

[Photo removed; click links above to view.]

The good news is, we don't have to worry about "terror babies" in the US anymore. Iran's cornering the market!

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