I joined the Politics department in 1991 but, for twelve years, was the director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. In 2008, I also held the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. However, my career path dates from 1976 when I joined Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was fired on the orders of the country's military ruler, General Zia ul Haq, for having criticized him. I then worked as the assistant editor of an opposition paper before leaving for the U.S. where I was later given political asylum.
Most of my research has turned out to be about some form of violence: colonial, sexual, racial, or epistemic. In my first book, I traced the genealogy of military rule in Pakistan to British colonialism in South Asia (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia,1995). After I began teaching, I became interested in readings of Islam's scripture that justify women's oppression ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an, 2002). In the wake of 9/11/2001, I looked at Western representational violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., 2004; Re- understanding Islam, 2008). Since then, I've written about other topics, including Islamic feminism, but my interest remains the Qur'an on which I recently published review essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury Academic). Another, "Secular and Feminist Critiques of the Qur'an: Anti- hermeneutics as liberation?" will appear in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion this Fall. Prior to writing academically, I published poetry and short-stories as well.
To my good fortune, my work on the Qur'an has been translated into a number of languages (Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and German) and I've also been invited to speak about it in several countries. I have particularly appreciated doing so in Indonesia, Granada (Spain), Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Egypt, 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.