Shareda Hosein, a 47-year-old lieutenant colonel in the United States Army reserves, a wife and mother, has good reason to repeat the following story:
"It is more than a story," says Hosein, who became the first Muslim woman to become chaplain at Tufts University, last September. "It was a sign from God, and one of the many signs that says I should become a chaplain in the military."
Though the military has rejected her plan, she continues to speak of the sign and insists she has not given up hope.
"I have been very happy with the army," Shareda, who is also a yoga buff, says, referring to nearly three decades being a reservist. "But I had also been asking myself, could I do something more and not just be a reservist?"
As she was heading to a chapel at the US base, she saw a male Muslim soldier trying to teach a female soldier the moves of the obligatory, pre-prayer washing.
The American Muslim soldier was learning a few things about her faith. Shareda took her to the ladies room and demonstrated the ritual performed by Muslims for centuries.
"Suddenly, I felt God had sent me a sign," she says. "He wants me to be a chaplain in the army. He wants me to help Muslim women, Muslim men, and in fact anyone whose faith needs some help, within their own traditions."
Shareda is a person with firm focus and solid determination; the 4-foot-10 inch tall soldier, who acquired a master's degree from a major American seminary last year, is not giving up her battle to become a Muslim chaplain in the American Army.
"Newspapers write that I want to became the first Muslim woman chaplain in the Army," Shareda, says. "All that I am saying is that I want to be a Muslim chaplain. I am not in the business of setting records. It will be vanity to think in terms of setting records. It is not the Islamic thing either.
"For me being a female Muslim chaplain means paving the way for other women to serve the army in the same capacity," she says. Though the army has rejected her application, insisting that it would accept only male Muslim chaplains who will follow the Islamic tradition of offering the prayers, Shareda is going to persist. (MORE)