Emory International Law Review


This Article examines the position of the Islamic legal tradition on arts and cultural heritage, including its pitfalls, and argues that a better understanding of Muslim state practice is needed to enhance the protection of cultural rights in the Muslim world. This can further facilitate collaboration between Muslim states and inter-governmental bodies working in the field of culture; implement better accountability mechanisms under international criminal law, as well as; to contribute to the fight against terrorism. In addition, the author submits that Islamic law is not necessarily an appropriate platform to enhance cultural rights and cultural heritage in the Muslim world. This is because of the nature of the Islamic legal tradition, which contains an extraordinary number of legal tools capable of setting aside obscure and anachronistic views in favor of modernization, yet is equally full of contradictions and ambiguities. The high complexity and diversity of possible solutions under Islamic law may inhibit the implementation of appropriate cultural policies on the protection of cultural heritage and the arts. The emphasis therefore should be on Muslim state practice, including in particular the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs whose palaces are evidence of tolerance and broadmindedness; contemporary Muslim state practice of those Muslim states that strive to promote cultural rights; and best practices initiated by Arab-Muslim organizations and institutions.