Mercer professor receives grant to explore Muslim women’s interfaith marriages


MACON — Mercer University’s Dr. Shehnaz Haqqani, assistant professor of religion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received an American Association of University Women (AAUW) short-term research publication grant for the 2023-2024 academic year. The award is intended to fund a part of her book project exploring Muslim women’s marriage to non-Muslims.

“This is a currently understudied research area I hope to help address given the rise of Muslim women’s interfaith marriages in the U.S.,” said Dr. Haqqani.

The project involves a textual analysis of the Qur’anic verses on interfaith marriage, a study of contemporary Muslim scholarly opinions on the issue and detailed interviews with Muslim women who have married or plan to marry non-Muslims. So far, Dr. Haqqani has interviewed 37 Muslim women who have been or are in romantic relationships with non-Muslims, and she says she hopes to interview a total of 50 in the next few months.

“As they make sense of their own personal experiences, they connect the dots to realize that the problems they are facing are connected to other issues and that fighting for the rights of one group of people necessarily involves fighting for the rights of other marginalized groups,” explains Dr. Haqqani. “This has been a very powerful thing to witness as my respondents describe their journeys.”

Dr. Bryan Whitfield, professor of religion and chair of the Religion Department, said Dr. Haqqani’s cutting-edge research charts a path toward a significant model for research in lived religion. “Dr. Haqqani’s work sheds light on that process for Muslim women, whose voices have often not been a part of the public conversation concerning sacred texts and their interpretation.”

Dr. Haqqani has been teaching at Mercer since the fall of 2018 and specializes in Islam, with a focus on gender and sexuality. She earned her Ph.D. in Islamic studies at the University of Texas at Austin and her bachelor’s at Emory University. In 2017-2018, she was the Dissertation Diversity Fellow at Ithaca College in Women’s and Gender Studies, where she taught courses on Islamic Feminism and Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East. Prior to that, she taught at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, while working on her dissertation.

About the AAUW
Founded in 1881, AAUW is one of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women. One of the largest scholarship programs for women in the world, AAUW has awarded more than $135 million in fellowships and grants to more than 13,000 scholars and organizations in 50 states and 150 countries. To learn more, visit