I joined the Politics department in 1991 and retired from it in 2020. For about half this time, I served as the (founding) director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity and, for a semester, was the Spinoza Chair in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. However, my career path began in 1976 with my induction into Pakistan's Foreign Service from which I was fired after six years on the orders of the military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, for having criticized him. I then worked as the assistant editor of The Muslim, an opposition paper, until 1983 when I left for graduate school in the U.S., where I was also granted political asylum.
My work is mostly about configurations of power and violence, specifically, colonial, sexual/ textual, and epistemic. In my first book, I trace the effects of British colonialism on post-independence politics in Pakistan and India, while in the next I counter readings of Islam’s scripture, the Qur'an, that discriminate against women, with a liberatory hermeneutics that draws on its accounts of God as beyond sex/ gender and its indifference to gender itself. Following 9/ 11/ 2001, I focused on the West's pejorative images of Islam and Muslims and, more recently, on secular/ feminist Muslim scholarship that disputes the Qur'an's sacrality in the name of women's rights and feminist justice.
Currently, I'm exploring the concept of an ungendered Islamic theology and reading some allusions to men's and women's roles in the Qur'an as time/ culture-bound as a way to recuperate its more universalistic "ethics of responsiblization" (to rephrase Jacques Derrida) and mutual guardianship between women and men.
Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an (University of Texas Press, 2002), has been translated into Bahasa Indonesia (2005), while derivative essays have appeared in Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, Dutch, German, French and Portuguese. A revised second edition was published in 2019 (in the U.K., by Saqi), along with a brief introduction, co-authored with David R. Finn.
My non-academic publications include poetry, short-stories, a weekly column for the Muslim and The Daily Times and op-eds for Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, Open Democracy, and New Statesman.
I have a Ph.D. (with distinction) in International Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies (now the Josef Korbel School), University of Denver, U.S., an M.A. (first position) in Journalism from the University of the Punjab, Pakistan, and a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan.