Muslim U.S. Army chaplain seeks to bridge gaps between cultures

Inside the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial chapel, built where terrorists attacked the building nearly 15 years ago, the Muslim call to prayer goes out.

The man who will lead prayer, Dawud Agbere, is one of five Muslim Army chaplains. Since being stationed at the Pentagon, he leads afternoon prayer, giving fellow Muslims at work a chance to connect with their creator.

“The community that he has built here, providing us with a venue where we can come to say our daily prayers … is a big thing,” said Habiba Heider, a Pentagon contractor.

Agbere is not your typical lieutenant colonel. For one thing, he was born and raised in the West African nation of Ghana.

“My dad was trying to get me commissioned in the Ghanaian army as a chaplain. Then I won the U.S. visa lottery,” Agbere said.

After months teaching some unruly secondary school students, he felt he needed more discipline and order. “So the military was very easy for me to just be part of it. And that felt home,” said Agbere.

As an Army chaplain, he’s spent about two decades in service to America. His Army career has taken him to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oftentimes the only Muslim in his unit, Agbere says he works to bridge the gap between cultures.

“[Afghanis or Iraqis] see me in this uniform. They’ve never fathomed that there is a Muslim in America, especially in the U.S. Army. Then they see one, they are shocked, but then they are happy,” Agbere said.

At home, Agbere teaches his children the values of Islam and the importance of character.

“He tells us that we can get the good grades, but without the character it means nothing,” said Agbere’s son Tilahta.