For months, the world has been transfixed by the apparent brutality of the Islamic State's practices in war. The beheading of journalists, the burning of prisoners and the enslavement of religious minorities all seem like a return to a barbaric past. Certainly, these practices seem far removed from any notion of conduct constrained by law.
Islam, however, has a robust religious legal tradition, including on matters of war. So to better understand that tradition and its connection (or lack thereof) with the warfare of contemporary groups, including the Islamic State, we turned to Andrew March, Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University. March is the author of Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus as well as numerous scholarly and popular articles on Islamic political and legal thought. In the last few weeks, he has also published pieces in Foreign Affairs and on Brookings' own Markaz blog taking a closer look at the Islamic State and the ways it interprets, adjusts and applies traditional Islamic jurisprudence.
In this podcast, March discusses the Islamic law of war, both in the classical tradition and in the discourse and practice of contemporary states and non-state actors. In doing so, he walks us through some of this vast, complex tradition, and he warns Western governments that their interests are best served by staying out of the internal interpretive debates of religious communities.
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