Three Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military face resistance and uncertainty in “Three Chaplains” on INDEPENDENT LENS – Nov. 6 at 10 pm

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Filmmaker David Washburn Captures Three Military Chaplains Who Combat Islamophobia While Promoting Interfaith Understanding

Monday, November 6 at 10:00 pm


Bearded Military chaplain dressed in camo smiling at US Air Force Academy.
Rafael Lantigua at US Air Force Academy.

A new INDEPENDENT LENS documentary profiles three Muslim chaplains who aim to make change in one of America’s most powerful institutions—the military. From filmmaker David Washburn (“An American Mosque”), “Three Chaplains” follows three current Muslim military chaplains. The film uncovers the trials and triumphs of their experiences and dedication to upholding First Amendment rights, while striving for equality and religious freedom.

“Three Chaplains” will premiere on PBS’s INDEPENDENT LENS on November 6, 2023, at 10 p.m. ET. The film will also be available to stream on the PBS App.

With more than 20 years of service under his belt, Air Force Chaplain Rafael Lantigua is a vital resource and confidant for young service members, as fellow military members can turn to him to learn about Islam, discover faith, and build resilience. For Army Colonel Khallid Shabazz, a Louisiana native who recently became the U.S. military’s highest-ranking Muslim clergyman, faith and service go hand-in-hand. Shabazz leans on past challenges, including molestation and gun violence, and ongoing pressures to inspire action in underrepresented service members. Newcomer Saleha Jabeen, an immigrant from India, has her sights set on becoming the first female Muslim chaplain, despite skepticism from her loved ones and support system.

counseling of a Muslim soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Khallid Shabazz counseling Muslim soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Through grounding their faith, Lantigua, Shabazz, and Jabeen have risen through the ranks, serving as symbols for progressive change within the U.S. Department of Defense, while challenging long-held notions of what it means to serve your country.

“I was driven to create this film after years of storytelling partnerships with American Muslim veterans. I came to appreciate the role Muslim chaplains play in the Department of Defense through witnessing the fearlessness and dedication of Rafael, Khallid, and Saleha. These three Americans illustrate how Muslim chaplains support the U.S. military and break down commonly held stereotypes about Muslims in America,” said Washburn. “My hope is that ‘Three Chaplains’ can reshape viewers’ sense of what a military leader looks like, beyond the pervasive Hollywood image, and to show people that
religious diversity is truly part of everyday life in America.”

Saleha Jabeen taking oath to enter Air Force chaplain corps.
Saleha Jabeen taking oath to enter Air Force chaplain corps, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

“Public media offers the perfect venue for ‘Three Chaplains’ because it provides a conversation-starting window into the everyday realities that thousands of Muslims serving in our U.S. military face,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of INDEPENDENT LENS. “We’re honored to world premiere such a poignant documentary that provides thoughtful testimony to the state of the nation, and spotlights those working to transform the culture of America from within.

“Three Chaplains” is co-funded by the ITVS Open Call funding initiative. Visit to learn more about the film.