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Islam and international humanitarian law: From a clash to a conversation between civilizations

30-09-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 847, by James Cockayne

By reviewing the role of Islamic players in the development of international humanitarian law from 1856 to the present, the author examines the changing nature of the relationship between the two systems. It is argued that Islam emerged first as a contributor civilization, then as a force for nationalism, and lastly as a competitor to international humanitarian law.

   

James Cockayne,
B.A. Hons I, L.L.B. Hons I (University of Sydney), is a Senior Legal Officer in the International Crime Branch of the Australian Attorney-General’s Department. The author would like to thank Dr. C. Roelofsen of Universeit Utrecht for the stimulating and erudite scholarship and encouragement which provoked this study. 
   
Abstract 
In a world viewed as a ‘clash of civilizations’, Islam and IHL are increasingly seen as competitors. Previous attempts to compare Islam and IHL characterize each system as static and monolithic and suffer from a subtle orientalism. By reviewing the role of Islamic players in the development of IHL from 1856 to the present, we can discern the changing nature of the relationship between the two systems. From an Islamic ‘other’, against which IHL defined itself, Islam has emerged first as a contributor ‘civilization’, then as a force of nationalism, and lastly as a competitor to IHL. Its contribution reveals that IHL is itself a process of conversation between civilizations.  
   
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