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Aftershocks: Reflections on the Implications of September 11, 6 Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal 81 (2003)


The Fundamentalist conservatizers in the Islamic world who support or passively sympathize with those who are attacking us perceive themselves as under a grave threat. To assess the accuracy of their perception, we must look at what they fear. Since 1945, the international legal system, at the initiative of leading Western modernizing states, has established a set ofground rules ofpolitical and other social organization based upon what it considers to be universally valid and self-evident principles. These ground rules are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although the United Nations Charter purported to reserve the domestic jurisdiction of states from international concern, Western governments and the human rights lobby have vigorously diminished the scope ofdomestic jurisdiction so that it no longer buffers the internal legal arrangements of states from the application of international human rights law. The values we designate as "universal" are, indeed, "universalizable," in contrast with tribal or other ethnically or religiously restrictive values that limit their reach and confine their benefits to members of a particular group. But "universalizable" values are not necessarily universally held. Nor are they "natural."

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