A biographical note
I began my career as a diplomat in Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs but was dismissed in 1982 by the country's military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, for having criticized him. I then worked briefly as the assistant editor of an opposition newspaper, the Muslim, before leaving for the U.S. (where I eventually got political asylum). As a writer in Pakistan, I published not only journalistic pieces but also short-stories and poetry. Teaching is, therefore, the last of three very different career trajectories.
My educational background is also rather eclectic. I have a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy and an M.A. in Journalism (Pakistan) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in International Studies (U.S.).
At Ithaca College, I was hired into, and tenured by, the Politics department but am currently the Director of the CSCRE (separate units). I have also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy (in 2008) at the University of Amsterdam.
Much of my work focuses on the ideologies, epistemologies, and practices of violence. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I traced the genealogy of Pakistan's chronic militarism to the political-economy of British colonial rule in India (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia, 1995). After graduate school, however, I was drawn to study Muslim sexual/ textual politics, specifically, the relationship between patriarchal interpretations of the Qur'an and the methods used to read the text. This project involved an (ongoing) engagement with the possibilities of a liberatory Qur'anic hermeneutics ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, 2002).
Somewhat later, my interests shifted to examining Western epistemic and representational violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., 2004, and Re-understanding Islam, 2008), and I have continued to explore this theme while also writing on a number of other subjects. These include Qur'anic and Biblical accounts of the prophet Abraham's sacrifice (2011), dominant U.S. narratives about September 11, 2001, and Islam, feminism, and secularism (2013). My most recent essay, on Islam, is to be included in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (2015).
My work on the Qur'an has been translated into several languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Urdu), and I have also been invited to speak about it widely, both in the U.S. and abroad (Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Germany, Finland, Iceland, Italy, U.K, and the Netherlands).