Past Program

Nov 14 - Nov 19, 2010

Islamic and International Law: Searching for Common Ground


Today, the majority of contemporary debates about Islamic law tend to focus on the Shari'a law tradition as a subjective doctrine rooted in strict religious code. However, the international law community, as well as the Islamic legal and scholarly community, both tend to speak in categorical terms when discussing each other's legal traditions. This leaves very little room for flexibility in establishing "common ground." The problem is further deepened by terminological confusion over what constitutes Shari'a and Islamic law, and even, at times, over the definition of international law. This session, and the Common Ground Project of which it is a part, will examine areas of common ground between these traditions, bringing together a high-level group of Muslim scholars and jurists, international lawyers, and academics, to engage in a sustained, focused, and practically oriented discussion that can nurture critical academic research across both traditions.


This is the second in a series of sessions, started in October 2008, in partnership with the International Bar Association. The first of these sessions found that many government officials in the Muslim world, while not always speaking with one voice on specific legal issues, often adopt and apply whichever of the widely accepted interpretations of Islamic law are most congruent with their international legal obligations. Likewise, the international law scholars assembled in Salzburg recognized that the area of human rights law is an area of ongoing discourse about the content and application of such norms. This mutual recognition is an extremely positive development, and an opportunity for members of both Muslim and non-Muslim states to come together as one international legal community in order to identify specific rights and obligations where Islamic and international law can be-and are being-reconciled and duly applied. This session will seek to contribute to that process, and to focus on fundamental questions that provide an important starting point for exploring the common ground between two complex and highly nuanced legal traditions in a fair, honest and deliberate manner.


In particular, this session will contribute directly to a book, which is to be a key outcome of the Common Ground project. The draft text will be circulated before the event and the text will be debated with authors and commentators during the session. Edward Mortimer, Senior Vice-President of Salzburg Global Seminar, will then write a commentary derived from our discussions which will be published as part of the final volume. We look forward to rich and creative insights and diverse perspectives brought together at Salzburg to inform this important work.


This session is being organized in collaboration with the International Bar Association, the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.



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The fee for this session is 3,300 Euro. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals. A significant discount on the participation fee will be available where an institution nominates more than one participant.


Limited scholarship funding may be available for those who are unable to pay the full fee (i.e. from developing countries or NGOs). Participants seeking scholarship assistance must submit an application for financial aid to our registration office.