I joined the Politics department in 1991 but served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity for twelve years. During that time, I also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2008). My career path, however, dates from 1976 when I was inducted into Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was fired six years later on the orders of General Zia ul Haq, the country's military ruler. I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, in addition to publishing poetry and short-stories, before leaving for the U.S. where I received political asylum.
Much of my research has turned out to be about different forms of violence. In my first book, I traced the incidence of militarism in Pakistan to the legacy of British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia). In the next, I contested patriarchal interpretations of Islam's scripture that sanction discrimination against women ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). A revised and expanded edition of this book, together with a new one, co-authored with David Raeburn Finn, Confronting Qur'anic Patriarchy, will be published in Spring 2018 (University of Texas Press). In a post- 9/11/2001 collection of popular essays and an academic monograph, I examined Western epistemic and racial violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., and Re-understanding Islam). Although I have written on other topics as well, notably, Islamic feminism, my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I've recently published essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender, Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury), and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Fall, 2016). Another, on secular/feminist critiques of the Qur'an, is forthcoming in a volume on Muslima Theology (University of Munster, Germany).
To my good fortune, my work on the Qur'an has been translated into a number of languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and German) and I've also been invited to speak about it in different countries. I have particularly liked doing so in Indonesia, Granada (Spain), Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Iceland.
I have a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy and an M.A. in Journalism (with honors), from Pakistan, and an M.A. and Ph.D. (with distinction) in International Studies, from the U.S.