Air Force Gets First Female Muslim Chaplain

An Air Force second Lt. has become the first to be appointed as the first female Muslim chaplain in the service, Air Force Times reported.

“Any time we advance religious freedoms, it’s a win for all persons of faith,” Air Force Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick said in the release.

“This is a big day not just for Muslims, but for persons of all faiths.”

Schaick was speaking after second Lt. Saleha Jabeen was commissioned Dec. 18 at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

“The fact is America is a place where the Constitution guarantees your freedom to embrace or abstain from religious ideals, and the Chaplain Corps, which Jabeen just entered, exists to ensure every airman has a religious freedom advocate,” Schaick said.

Air Force Gets First Female Muslim Chaplain - About Islam
Friends and family members of chaplain candidate Saleha Jabeen pin on her second lieutenant rank, during a commissioning ceremony, Dec. 18 at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Jabeen entered the U.S. Air Force as the first female Muslim chaplain candidate. (Tech. Sgt. Armando Schwier-Morales/Air Force)

Originally from India, Jabeen came to the US 14 years ago as an international student.

“My brother has been the source of my inspiration,” Jabeen said.

“It was because of his dedication and getting to see his military career that I recognized the importance of the chaplaincy in the armed forces. I saw that when one member gets deployed, all of their family members join them.”

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Muslim Chaplains in the US

Though chaplaincy has roots in the Christian tradition, Muslims in America have embraced the model as a way to provide faith-based guidance in institutional contexts, particularly in the military, on campuses, in hospitals, and in correctional facilities.

Muslim chaplains often serve both Muslims and non-Muslims, offering spiritual support and guidance, and in recent years, chaplains have acted as intra-institutional leaders who work towards greater interfaith understanding and community engagement.

Today, Muslim chaplaincy in the United States has moved away from da’wah towards a focus on support and pastoral care, according to the Association of Muslim Chaplains, a professional organization begun in 2011.

The Association of Muslim Chaplains, along with Boston University School of Medicine, April released a survey of Muslim chaplains in America.

It found that challenges included the need for more “strong Muslim institutions” to conduct the training and provide financial support, personal support, gender expectations, and the social climate.

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