Asma Barlas

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Asma Barlas (born 1950), is an academic educated in Pakistan and the United States. Both her parents were intellectuals and taught her to be an independent woman, capable of doing whatever she wanted.[1] She left Pakistan in 1983, seeking political asylum in the USA. She is the Director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity of the department of politics at Ithaca College, New York. Her specialties include comparative and international politics, Islam and Qur'anic hermeneutics, and women and gender.[2] Barlas was named to the prestigious Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands for "her prominent contributions to discussions about women and Islam".[3]

Barlas rejects the designation of her views and interpretations of Islam as "Islamic feminism," unless that term is defined as "a discourse of gender equality and social justice that derives its understanding and mandate from the Qur'an and seeks the practice of rights and justice for all human beings in the totality of their existence across the public-private continuum."[4]


Born in Pakistan,[5] Barlas was one of the first women to be inducted into the foreign service. Her diplomatic career was ended when General Zia ul Haq dismissed her from the Foreign Service on two charges: for calling him a "buffoon" in her personal diary (leaked by her former in-laws) and for having said, at a private dinner at the home of Pakistan's ambassador to the Philippines, that "the judiciary in Pakistan was neither free nor fair." She joined the newspaper The Muslim as assistant editor, but eventually had to leave Pakistan for reasons of personal safety in 1983, and later received political asylum in the US[6]

Barlas is former chair of the Department of Politics and founding director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. She has a B.A. in English Literature and philosophy, an M.A in Journalism from Pakistan, and an M.A. and PhD from the Graduate School of International Studies (now the Josef Korbel School) at the University of Denver in Colorado.[7]


In her recent work, she has focused on the way Muslims produce religious knowledge, especially patriarchal exegesis of the Quran, a topic she has explored in her book, "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an.[8] She has also written numerous editorials for The Daily Times, Pakistan.[citation needed]

Books and book chapters[edit]

  • "Women's and Feminist Readings of the Qur'an," in Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Cambridge Companion to the Qur'an (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • "Reviving Islamic Universalism: East/s, West/s, and Coexistence,” in Abdul Aziz Said and Meena Sharify-Funk (eds.), Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, not Static (Routledge, 2006).
  • “Globalizing Equality: Muslim Women, Theology, and Feminisms,” in Fera Simone (ed.), On Shifting Ground: Muslim Women in the Global Era (NY: Feminist Press, 2005).
  • Islam, Muslims, and the US: Essays on Religion and Politics (India, Global Media Publications, 2004)
  • Amina Wadud's Hermeneutics of the Qur'an: Women Rereading Sacred Texts,” in Suha Taji-Faruqi (ed.), Contemporary Muslim Intellectuals and the Quran: Modernist and Post Modernist Approaches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an (University of Texas Press, 2002).
  • Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia (Westview Press, 1995)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]