Banned for a book

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A Mauritanian student traveling to the United States to study at SVSU during the upcoming academic year was denied entry and deported the night of Saturday, Aug. 20, after he was detained and questioned for several hours at the Detroit International Airport.

Abdel Nasser Beibe, a 24-year-old activist, blogger, member of the Executive Bureau of the National Union of Students Association at the University of Nouakchott and ambassador for the Arab Thought Foundation, was set to attend SVSU through a scholarship provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. He was going to study at SVSU for two semesters.

“In the [first] semester, I planned to study the English language to improve my level, and, in the second [semester], I would study in my field of education, which is English studies,” he said.

After arriving in Detroit and having his visa approved, Beibe said he was selected for extra questioning and later arrested by U.S. authorities after they found an image on his cell phone of a novel titled “Habibi Daeshi,” written by Egyptian author Hager Abd al-Samd.

Beibe said that “Habibi Daeshi” translated into English means “My Love from Daesh.”

“Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase “al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham,” which means “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” in English.

Beibe said the novel includes stories of love from the ranks of Daesh and exposes the crimes of the group. Its cover features the flag of the militant group, a veiled woman and Arabic text.

Two weeks before his departure to the United States, he was in Rosso, a major city in southwest Mauritania, with a friend who gave him the novel and asked him to send it to a mutual friend. Their mutual friend lived in Nouadhibou, which is the second largest city in Mauritania.

Because it would be easier for Beibe to send the novel to Nouadhibou from his hometown of Nouakchott, the capital and largest city of Mauritania, rather than from Rosso, he waited until he returned home on the day of his departure to send it.

Before sending it, Beibe took a photo of the novel with his cell phone to prove to his friend that he had remembered to send it.

Beibe said he never read the novel and had never even opened it.

He recounted his story to the authorities in Detroit, but he said they didn’t believe him.

“It was controversial to them because they said that this novel glorifies Daesh, despite [the fact that] this is contrary to what its author says [it is about],” Beibe said. “I told them the novel attacks Daesh, but they said it glorifies Daesh, according to their research on Google.”

In an interview with Ahmed Walid Jido of Arabic-language website Raseef22, author as-Samd expressed her confusion over what happened to Beibe is Detroit. She said her novel does not support terrorism or radicalism, but that it condemns such in all forms.

“Even the summary on Goodreads.com explains that the book highlights the crimes of Daesh – in fact, that’s even written on the back cover,” Samd told Jido.

After hundreds of questions during a six-hour period, the authorities in Detroit concluded that Beibe was a risk to national security for carrying materials that “promote[d] extremism” and decided to deport him allegedly for three reasons: he had currently graduated; he was not employed; and he had, according to authorities, changed his answers frequently during the CPB (Customs and Border Process) inspection.

“It was a surprise for me, this arrest and decision,” Beibe said.

Authorities then allegedly gave Beibe two choices: they could either cancel his visa and he could apply for a new visa once he returned to Mauritania, or they could cancel his visa and prohibit him from entering the United States for a period of five years.

Beibe said he chose the first option.

Once Beibe was back in Mauritania, though, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania said it was too late to help him apply for a new visa.

“[They said] I should have called [them] at the time of my arrest,” Beibe said. “I told them that the police didn’t suggest I contact the Embassy, so I didn’t know it was my right [to do so].”

He said his scholarship has been revoked so he can’t rejoin the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program or reapply to SVSU now, but he hopes to in the future.

“The experience shocked me and gave me another picture of the United States, because I was surprised by the reaction of the American police who expelled me only because I had a photo of a novel,” Beibe said. “I want the students of SVSU to know that I really wanted to join them, but destiny has chosen the opposite of my desire.”

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