It took the US consulate seven minutes to reject Nabil Ahmed Shabbir’s visa application.
Shabbir, a British Shia scholar, had applied for his US visa to assist with the birth of his first child. His wife, an American Shia Muslim, wanted to have the birth in the US.
Shabbir hadn’t even left the embassy gate after handing in his visa application when he got a text message saying it had been rejected.
Shabbir, whose work had brought him to the US dozens of times before this rejection in 2020, did not think obtaining a visa would be an issue.
Instead, he had to watch his firstborn’s birth via WhatsApp video.
Shabbir is one of numerous Shia scholars who have been repeatedly – and unexpectedly – denied entry to the US in the past decade, despite their prior travel to the country for work purposes, raising concerns that they are being deliberately excluded because of their religion.
Despite traveling to the US regularly for five years on a valid 10-year visa, Shabbir was stopped at the airport in 2019 and detained for five hours, facing questions about the intent of his visit.
He was traveling with his wife, but was asked why he had invitations from years ago from American organizations – which fed his suspicion that officials had gone through his email.
He was eventually allowed to enter, but once he returned from the US, he received a notification that his visa had been revoked.
This revocation – unceremonious, without a specific reason and out of the blue – fits a pattern that has been experienced by many Shia scholars.