Mon 13 January 2020:
A woman of Indian descent has become the U.S. Air Force’s first female Muslim chaplain candidate, breaking taboos and shattering glass ceilings.
Second Lt. Saleha Jabeen on Dec. 18, 2019 was appointed at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago by Air Force Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, the Air Force said.
“Any time we advance religious freedoms, it’s a win for all persons of faith,” Steven Schaick said during Jabeen’s commissioning ceremony.
“This is a big day not just for Muslims, but for persons of all faiths. I could not be more proud of our Air Force for being willing to commission and embrace the first female Imam in the Department of Defense,” he added by emphasizing the importance of diversity in the Air Force’s chaplaincy.
When Jabeen learned of the challenges faced by service members through her brother’s deployments and service, she decided to follow him into the Army.
“My brother has been the source of my inspiration. 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,” Jabeen said.
She first served in the Army Medical Corps and worked with chaplains to help other soldiers.
“When other people look at what I have done, I want them to know that God has a plan for you and to go out there and be the best version of yourself and accomplish the mission you were specifically designed to complete,” Jabeen proudly told during ceremony.
“Don’t let anyone or anything stop you and when they try, be kind, be generous, be resilient and don’t quit,” Jabeen added.
Air Force chaplains are religious ministry professionals who are responsible for counseling and supporting the spiritual needs of all airman around the world. There are many service members from different faiths or no faiths at all in the Department of Defense but not any female imams, a spiritual leader in Islam.
As the first Muslim female candidate, Jabeen will now have to complete her chaplaincy training and then will be assigned to a duty station where she will support airmen. Along the road, she hopes to inspire people and break barriers.
Female imams are not too common in Islam, however their numbers have been increasing over the last quarter of a century.
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