New PBS Documentary Follows Muslim Chaplains in the U.S. Military

The film, directed and produced by David Washburn and Razi Jafri, profiles three individuals and delves into their experiences navigating issues of identity, faith and service.

New PBS Documentary Follows Muslim Chaplains in the U.S. Military
Saleha Jabeen among her peers at an Army Reserve Base in 2017. Jabeen is one the subjects of "Three Chaplains," a documentary that follows Muslim chaplains in the United State military.

The PBS documentary "Three Chaplains" (2023) explores the lives and challenges of Muslim chaplains serving in the U.S. military. The film, directed and produced by David Washburn and Razi Jafri, profiles three individuals and delves into their experiences navigating issues of identity, faith and service. Throughout the film, its subjects share stories of combating Islamophobia, address misconceptions about their occupations, and foster interreligious dialogue within the military.

Those profiled include Captain Saleha Jabeen and Major Rafael Lantigua Jr., along with Army Col. Khallid Shabazz, who have become part of the small group of Muslim military chaplains who tend to all U.S. troops regardless of faith. Jabeen and Lantigua have gone on record as facing criticism from both non-Muslims and civilian Muslims for their service. “These voices from both sides of the aisle start piling on upon Muslim service members,” Lantigua says in the film.

Among other duties, Jabeen and Lantigua are responsible for giving talks on suicide prevention, providing counsel on relationships and advising commanders on matters of religion and morale. As there are so few Muslim chaplains, Jabeen and Lantigua share community as they navigate challenges and celebrate milestones, like Jabeen being the first female Muslim military chaplain. Self-described as "bridge builders," the two strive to promote understanding and humanity among individuals with differing views.

Washburn, who has done previous work on Muslims in the military, said he found that the chaplains “occupied a space where all sorts of compelling story lines intersected: religious freedom, Islamophobia, interfaith dialogue, diversity in [the] military today.”

The documentary provides a timely and candid look at the chaplains' roles in bridging religious and military divides as its subjects navigate through periods of heightened tension, such as post-9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite challenges, the titular three chaplains play a crucial role in fostering understanding and compassion in their community.

“Three Chaplains” is available now on PBS. You can watch it at the link below.

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