Jihad in a World of Sovereigns: Law, Violence, and Islam in the Bosnia Crisis

Research paper by Darryl Li

Indexed on: 10 Mar '16Published on: 22 Sep '15Published in: Law & Social Inquiry


This article argues that jihads waged in recent decades by “foreign fighter” volunteers invoking a sense of global Islamic solidarity can be usefully understood as attempts to enact an alternative to the interventions of the “International Community.” Drawing from ethnographic and archival research on Arab volunteers who joined the 1992–1995 war in Bosnia‐Herzegovina, this article highlights the challenges and dilemmas facing such jihad fighters as they maneuvered at the edges of diverse legal orders, including international and Islamic law. Jihad fighters appealed to a divine authority above the global nation‐state order while at the same time rooting themselves in that order through affiliation with the sovereign and avowedly secular nation‐state of Bosnia‐Herzegovina. This article demonstrates an innovative approach to law, violence, and Islam that critically situates states and nonstate actors in relation to one another in transnational perspective.