SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: The International Court of Justice (ICJ), as the principal judicial organ of the UN, plays an important role in peaceful resolution of international disputes. Traditionally, relations between Islamic law states, international law, and courts have been relatively tense due to the inherent link between Islamic law and the Islamic faith. Yet, several Islamic law states recognize the ICJ’s compulsory and compromissory jurisdiction. This article asks: Why do some Islamic law states extend support to the International Court of Justice, while others turn away from the Court? I argue and empirically demonstrate that specific characteristic of Islamic law can explain variation of Islamic law states’ preferences towards the ICJ. After providing original data on the characteristics of Islamic legal structures, I systematically compare pertinent rules of international law and Islamic law, focusing on similarities and differences between the two. Islamic law features such as respect for legal scholarship and peaceful resolution of disputes are compatible with principles embraced by the ICJ. Islamic law states that incorporate these norms are supportive of the Court. In contrast, Islamic law states that directly adopt sharia as the law of the land and incorporate sharia in their education systems are less open to the ICJ’s adjudication.
Abstract: Legislatures enact laws and the courts interpret them. Under the doctrine of legislative supremacy, a judge is not free to ignore or modify a statutory provision in order to substitute a rule that seems to him to be better reasoned; thus where the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, interpretation is unnecessary and it must be enforced according to its terms. Nevertheless, gaps and ambiguities can arise and, in such cases, courts apply interpretive rules, or ‘canons of construction’, to resolve these ambiguities. One frequently invoked rule requires that words that are not defined by a statute be given their ordinary meaning by the interpreting court. In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has increasingly relied upon dictionary definitions in applying this rule. The Court’s use of dictionaries as authority for its interpretations incorporates the assumption that the dictionary is the best source for ascertaining the meaning of statutory texts. This article challenges that assumption on linguistic grounds. I argue that the focus on definitions skews the interpretation of statutory language by isolating words from their semantic context. By comparing two cases in which the Court used dictionary definitions to a third case in which the definition used by the Court was contained in the statute itself, I demonstrate that the ordinary meaning of legal terms cannot be determined by dictionary definitions.