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 entered Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was later fired 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 is about some aspect of violence. My first book traces military dictatorships in Pakistan to the legacy of British colonialism (Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia), while the second contests patriarchal interpretations of Islam's scripture that sanction discrimination against women ("Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an). Several post- 9/11/2001 writings focus on Western epistemic and racial violence against Islam (Islam, Muslims and the U.S., and Re- understanding Islam), whereas more recent ones explore topics like Islamic feminism. However, my primary interest remains the Qur'an on which I've just published two essays in the Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender and Patriarchal Moments (Bloomsbury). Two others, on secular/ feminist critiques of Islamic feminism and the Qur'an, are forthcoming in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Fall, 2016), and a volume on Muslima Theology (being compiled at University of Muenster, 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.