Past Program

Oct 25 - Oct 30, 2008

Islamic and International Law: Searching for Common Ground


The majority of contemporary debates about Islamic law tend to focus on the Sharia law tradition as a subjective doctrine rooted in strict religious code. Recent controversies surrounding "personal status laws," including, but not limited to the rights of women, have served to further this view, characterizing Sharia law as a rigid interpretation of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammed. Nuanced examinations of the rich history and diverse juridical context of Islamic legal traditions are rare, and little serious effort has been made to find a means of accommodating Sharia law traditions within the treaties, conventions, and institutions that form the foundations of modern international law. Furthermore, extremist Islamic political movements have attempted to appropriate Sharia law for their own ends, imbuing its traditions with an air of theocratic inflexibility incompatible with modern legal systems.


This is problematic. All legal traditions require institutions that can adjudicate consistently, and without institutional frameworks all legal doctrines become abstract, void of the structure needed to interpret the "rule of law" in a predictable way. Since 1945, an interlocking system of international conventions and treaties has provided such a structure for the regulation of relations between states, but representatives from Islamic legal traditions were largely absent during their creation. Consequently, Sharia law today lacks an institutional structure that can provide a predictable and consistent means of creating legal norms. This session, in conjunction with the International Bar Association, will seek to find common ground between the traditions of Islamic and international law and develop a framework for accommodating the diverse heritage of Islamic legal thought within modern rule of law systems. Focusing on international law as a means of neutralizing radical views and creating international dialogue, this session will further attempt to locate areas of substantive legal analysis where Islamic and international traditions can find complementary principles, doctrines and means of adjudication.


The fee for this session is 3,300 EURO. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals.

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 admissions office.


Dato Arshad
(Special Guest) Ambassador Extraordinary, Embassy of Malaysia, Vienna
Famile Fatma Arslan
President and Founder, Arslan Lawyers; Member of the Board of the Foundation Islam and Citizenship, The Netherlands
Georges Assaf
Attorney at Law. Ph.D. Principal, Assaf Law Offices, Beirut; Director, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PINACLE); Lecturer International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Saint Joseph University, Beirut and Balamand University, Beirut; Member of the
Natasha Bakht
Professor of Law, Ottawa University, Ottawa
William Burke-White
Richard Perry Professor; Inaugural Director, Perry World House; Professor of Law, Penn Law School
Hans Corell
Former Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Stockholm
William Duncan
Deputy Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private and International Law, The Hague
Sayed El Amin
(Special Guest) Ambassador Extraordinary, Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, Vienna
Amira el-Azhary Sonbol
Professor of Islamic History, Law and Society, Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service, Qatar and Head, International Affairs Program, Qatar University
Anver Emon
Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto
Courtney Erwin
Chief of Staff, Cordaba Initiative, New York, New York
Nasra Hassan
Director, United Nations Information Service, Vienna
Clark Lombardi
Assistant Professor of Law, Washington University, Seattle
Ziba Mir-Hosseini
Independent Consultant, Researcher and Writer, based at London Middle East Institute and Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, SOAS, University of London
Fernando Pombo
President, International Bar Association; Chairman and Founding Partner, Gomez-Acebo & Pombo, Madrid
Javaid Rehman
Professor of Law, Brunel University, Uxbridge (invited)
(Special Guest) Ambassador Extraordinary, Embassy of the Republic of Pakistan, Vienna
Adel Sherif
Deputy Chief Justice, The Supreme Constitutional Court, Cairo