Three Chaplains

Three Muslim chaplains aim to make change in one of America’s most powerful institutions—the military. For them, the fight for equality and religious freedom begins on the inside.

woman wearing hijab standing in line with people in military uniform
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 6, 2023
54:15 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
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Director / Producer

David Washburn

David Washburn has partnered with Muslim storytellers for over a decade. His documentary, An American Mosque, aired on public television nationwide and was acquired by Al Jazeera. He developed Three Chaplains from his short film series featuring Muslim veterans that ran online in the Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune, and NBC News.

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Razi Jafri

Razi Jafri makes films about America’s changing cultural landscape. His previous film, Hamtramck, USA (SXSW 2020) chronicles democracy in America’s first Muslim-majority city. He is an alumnus of the Sundance Producers Fellowship. His projects have been funded by the Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Foundation, Knight Foundation, and CAAM.

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The Film

As Muslim chaplains, upholding the First Amendment is not just part of their job description, it is highly personal. Rafael Lantigua, Khallid Shabazz, and Saleha Jabeen swear an oath to the Constitution, vowing to protect the right of every service member to practice their faith freely. Despite decades of military service, some still view them as the enemy and unfit to serve because of their beliefs. Rather than blend in, they accept the challenges and inherent dangers of being the public face of Islam for the U.S. military. Three Chaplains goes inside the armed forces to reveal how these chaplains practice, teach, and share their faith with troops around the country. Rafael, Khallid, and Saleha each face resistance—from accusations of terror to disapproval from their own families and community—while ascending to the highest ranks of the military. Like generations of minority service members before them, they call on the Department of Defense to support equality for all.