Political science professor’s book on Islamic law wins two International Studies Association awards // Latest News // College of Arts and Letters // University of Notre Dame



Emilie Justyna Powell

Emilia Justyna Powell, a Notre Dame political science professor and concurrent professor at the law school, won two International Studies Association (ISA) awards for her 2020 book, Islamic law and international law: peaceful settlement of disputes.

Powell’s 314-page book won the ISA’s 2022 International Law Book Prize for its originality, significance and rigor in international law, and for his outstanding contributions to the field. And he received the ISA’s Religion and International Relations Book Prize for those same qualities and his contributions to religion and international relations.

“I couldn’t believe I won two,” Powell said of her book, which has been favorably reviewed by nearly 30 media outlets and organizations in 15 countries (including the Iranian Parliament’s Center for Islamic Studies). ). “It shows me that people are open to listening to ideas.”

The book covers the differences and similarities between the Islamic legal tradition and international law. The Center for Strategic and International Studies described the book as one of the most important works on Islam and international relations in the past two decades and said it “provides crucial information and knowledge that can only be ignored at our collective peril”.

She traveled widely to interview judges, policy makers and religious leaders from Islamic culture for the book, in which she also includes nearly 60 years of original data on the national laws of Islamic home states.

In 29 states under Islamic law, there are 900 million Muslims who are ethically, morally, doctrinally or politically devoted to the Islamic legal tradition – a culture of justice based on the non-confrontational resolution of disputes.

Some people in the United States, including journalists and academics, misunderstand Islamic law and perpetuate those misunderstandings, Powell said.

After a previous cover of the book, she received threats and was falsely accused of trying to introduce Islamic law into the United States. Education, she said, can help eradicate fear and mistrust – and she sees firsthand how her students grow as scholars as they develop their knowledge, insight and their perspective on Islamic law and other topics each semester.

“If we focus on the similarities between these systems, the world could be a lot more peaceful,” she said.

This fall, Powell will share her research at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, DC – which promotes mutual respect and understanding between Oman and the United States.

The Poland native recently returned from teaching Our Lady’s Intensive Three-Week Abroad Course in Poland, International Law and the Holocaust, which includes visiting death camps and museums.

Powell said the experience is emotional for the students. It is also for her; his family members, including his grandparents, experienced the horrors of Nazism firsthand. His grandfather, an officer in the Polish army, was a prisoner of war. He weighed 80 pounds when released.

This year, she said global circumstances provided a powerful additional context for the course. As Notre Dame students learned of Nazi atrocities against Poles during World War II, in real time, Poland’s neighbor Russia was waging war on another neighbor, Ukraine.

Powell, who continues to spend an hour every day improving his Arabic, is currently working on his next book on the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes between countries.

“My research takes me to so many places – Oman, Kuwait, Algeria. In all of these places I was received with incredible hospitality,” she said.

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