The California-born scholar of Islamic law, who also worked as a death penalty law clerk for the U.S. appellate court covering the West Coast, was a sought-after prospect in her first crack at a post in academia this fall.
Too often, though, prospective colleges and universities seemed to see her as either an oddity or a token, she said. Many interviewers found it hard to get past her personal background - questioning how she could be a Muslim, an educated woman and an American - while other places seemed attracted to her expertise in a flavor-of-the-day way, driven by the notoriety surrounding recent world violence wrought by radical Islamic movements.
But at UW-Madison, she said, her future colleagues were more interested from the start in exploring the specific ideas in her specialty, which involves comparing the American and Islamic legal systems.
"I felt like I was coming home ideologically," she said.
"It wasn't one-sided," she added. "They critiqued me and I had to work. But I was really into the meat of my ideas. It was right there."
There's much more on Asifa in the article, including her Iraqi-born actor husband and her brief on behalf of a Nigerian woman, an unwed mother sentenced to flogging (she lost, but there was at least some willingness [ADDED: on the part of the Nigerian courts] to listen to the arguments, because they were based on Islamic law).
UPDATE: I've had to deactivate the link because the WSJ took the article down. Too bad!