With crescents gleaming on his epaulets to signify his Islamic faith, the first Muslim chaplain in the U.S. Navy was welcomed this week into the ranks of military chaplains.
Lt. j.g. Monje Malak Abd al-Muta'Ali Noel Jr. received his chaplain's commission at a Pentagon ceremony Thursday attended by Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton and the Navy chief of chaplains, Rear Adm. Donald Muchow.
Muchow described Noel's chaplaincy as "historic" and said it would enable the Navy to provide the "kind of ministry that we've never had the chance to deliver before" in the 1,000-member Naval chaplain corps.
"This is a day when our government in the United States deeply desires to provide the quality of faith that a multidenominational chaplain corps brings," said Muchow, a minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Noel, a native of Salem, N.J., said the unique epaulets on his uniform are a positive sign for Muslims. "It lends an air of legitimacy and credibility," he said. "We are represented. We are here."
Noel, 33, is African American. Raised as a Christian, he converted to Islam 11 years ago. His appointment comes three years after the first Muslim chaplain was commissioned in the U.S. Army.