The U.S Air Force has made history by commissioning its first Muslim woman chaplain candidate last month. Second lieutenant Saleha Jabeen received her Ecclesiastical Endorsement from the Islamic Society of North America and commissioned into the Air Force as a chaplain candidate, which, after she finishes training, will allow her to get a duty station assignment.
It is the first time the U.S. military will have a female chaplain of the Islamic faith. While this is first for a Female Muslim women chaplain, Jabeen joins few female chaplains in general, with only 161 of the 2,808 active duty chaplains in the U.S. Military women.
Jabeen, a former international student from India, previously served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2016 to 2018, where she acted as a lay representative for the Islamic faith when a Muslim chaplain was not available. She graduated from North Park University, an evangelical Christian school in Chicago, in 2009, and the Catholic theological school.
Commenting on her path to becoming a practicing chaplain, she said that “Serving as a female Muslim Chaplain would give me the opportunity to serve the female service members and families of male service members of the Islamic faith and otherwise as well,” and that having a female chaplain was especially important to “honor the gender-specific needs” of female Muslim service members.
Air Force chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, said at the commissioning ceremony, that he “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”, calling it a big day “not just for Muslims but for persons of all faiths”.
Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak has used familiar language surrounding Muslim women on “breaking taboos and shattering glass ceilings”, Muslim organisations have also reported the news, with no further analysis so far.
Another great achievement for Muslim women in the USA.
— About Islam (@AbtIslamNet) January 12, 2020
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) January 12, 2020