This short essay focuses on the involvement of Muslim-majority state leadership in the pre-World War II development of international humanitarian law (IHL), including their appeals to Islamic norms. This historical snapshot reveals how national leaders joined debates during conferences leading up to the revised 1949 Geneva Conventions, the heart of modern IHL. Such accounts complicate our assumptions about the cultural and national composition of public international law as “Western,” and shed light on global hierarchies involving modern Arab and Muslim states and their investment in such norms. The essay argues by example that, ultimately, in Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) more emphasis is needed on history, traditions of governance, and states’ distinctive responses to macrostructural pressures—rather than on static notions of identity, resistant narratives, and presumed shared ideologies. TWAIL seeks alternatives to international law’s presumed oppressive role in Western-non-Western power dynamics, and new ideas and opportunities for a “third-world” legal scholarship beyond current global underdevelopment dynamics.
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