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What law?

Feb 12,2017 - Last updated at Feb 12,2017

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the entrance of a parking lot having my car inspected and exchanging polite greetings with the guard, when a motorist came against the traffic to exit through the entrance, ignoring the multiplicity of signs advising him against doing so.

I felt it my civic duty to mime to him the word “mamnou”, meaning forbidden. 

His response, surprisingly, was loud, angry and in English. Sweeping the air dismissively with the back of his hand, he shouted: “Go from here! Door is oben!”

This really deserves close examination.

I, a Jordanian, was speaking in Arabic to a fellow Jordanian, and I mimed an Arabic word to another Jordanian; but because I asked him to respect the law, he assumed that I must be foreign and answered me in English.

Why?

Respecting the law is not alien to Arab culture.

As far back as the 14th century, Ibn Khaldun observed that when people move from nomadic to urban life, their tribal fanaticism is replaced by wider social cohesion maintained by compliance with the law.

It is surprising, therefore, that the transition from narrow loyalty based on kinship to loyalty to a community beyond the tribe, which was observed as natural social progress in Tunisia 700 years ago, still eludes Jordanian society today.

Clearly, we do not read Ibn Khaldun; but how about listening to His Majesty King Abdullah who has felt the need to speak out repeatedly on the subject in the past few months?

His last statement was in January, in a meeting with the Royal Committee for Enhancing National Integrity and the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission, when he said that laxity in implementing the law encourages corruption and weakens the public’s confidence in the state’s institutions.

There certainly has been no shortage of people who dismiss the law. Even lawmakers celebrated their election victory by circulating videos of them dancing amid supporters who fired clip after clip of machinegun fire in the air, so shortly after they had declared the practice illegal. 

Persistent disregard for the law by officials has created the perverse outlook that disrespect for the law is a measure of one’s status, while conformity is the fate of those who lack the means or social standing to flaunt their law-breaking with impunity.

This culture needs to be reversed.

Our society now needs a persistent, many-year, multidisciplinary public awareness campaign to persuade people that respect for the law is not demeaning, but proper.

Of course, we as citizens should not wait for the government to do everything for us. We should have the courage to set an example by observing the law even when it is more profitable to do the opposite, in simple acts like standing in line and waiting for our turn.

 

Then again, how long would people wait patiently at the end of a line which does not move, while the only people getting through are those who jump the queue?

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