Saleha Jabeen Becomes First Female Muslim Chaplain in the US Military
The graduation ceremony for BCC Class 21A was a historic event as the Air Force aims to foster a more diverse and inclusive service…
“I did not have to compromise on any of my religious beliefs or convictions,” Jabeen said. “I am surrounded with people who respect me and are willing to receive what I bring to the table as a woman, a faith leader, and an immigrant.”
Jabeen’s entrance into the military as a chaplain is an interesting, if unusual, situation. On one hand, it speaks to the US military’s promotion of religious exercise that it would commission a chaplain with religious beliefs held by only a few people in the entire military. On the other hand, Jabeen’s ability to perform one of her primary chaplain roles – act as a faith leader – is essentially non-existent, making the practicality of her appointment somewhat confusing.
Meanwhile, there are shortages of chaplains in other faiths who need faith leaders in the military.
Tellingly, atheists have been unusually quiet about the newly minted military female Imam. While they frequently claim Christians are over-represented in the US military chaplaincy (and atheists are under-represented), they don’t seem bothered by the fact that the military has installed a chaplain who has essentially no adherents in the military to serve.
All that said, Jabeen’s role in the military can be celebrated – so long as the US military continues to advocate for the religious exercise of all of its troops, even those who hold beliefs that some may dislike.