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US Muslim Army Chaplain Bridges Gaps

WASHINGTON – Hammering down many misconceptions about Islam and Muslims, Dawud Agbere, one of five Muslim Army chaplains or imams, has been working in the American army over the past two decades, to bridge gaps and connect Islam and the West.

“It’s about the community that he has built here,” Habiba Heider, a Pentagon contractor, told Voice of America.

Two decades ago, Agbere won the US Diversity Visa lottery, which randomly selects immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

After months of working as a high school teacher in New Jersey, he yearned for a job with more discipline and order.

“So when I saw the navy was hiring people, I said, ‘That’s where I belong,’” Agbere said.

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Later on, he joined army to find himself in a mission to bridge the cultural gap between Islam and the West.

His journey has not always been easy, though. When he was deployed in Iraq, one of Agbere’s military leaders was extremely apprehensive of him even before they met.

“He had his own misconception about who that Muslim guy is going to be,” Agbere said, “but today, he’s one of my best friends.”

Abdul Zaid, an IT contractor who works in the building, calls Agbere a spiritual leader who cares, consoling his fellow Pentagon employees during times of grief and occasionally taking them for cookies or ice cream in times of celebration.

Amid rising Islamophobia in the US, he chooses to point out the ‘beauty’ of American diversity.

“Definitely some of these things are based on ignorance, and I always see this as an opportunity to teach people,” he said.

“I want to be able to define my story. I don’t want my story to define me.”