Distinct Societal Laws Lead to Similar Outcomes

By Jamal Talal A Abualkhair

​ Maintaining order in any society can perhaps be argued to be a natural need. As we have the ability to observe around us, every society that has not been able to implement a structure of rules that are properly enforced dissolves into chaos. If a society is properly able to make its people act accordingly, to certain rules, it will be advantageous for everyone. While there is no question that a system of law and order that provides justice benefits everyone in society, we can see all around us that many different countries today have implemented different rules and laws. While such laws are different in every country, they are able to suit the needs of people according to their own culture. For example, in a country like Saudi Arabia, there is often harsh criticism in the news for the extreme punishment that is given to criminals. Whereas in a country like the United States, most forms of capital punishment such as the death penalty are less common. But if we observe these two countries, we can argue that both are able to deliver justice and maintain social order according to the society around them. Here, we present an argument that while laws can be different in different societies, they can still work to achieve similar results.

The justice system that works in the U.S. may not work in Saudi Arabia, and vice versa. Photo from SnappyGoat.com

​ From an outsider’s perspective, the strict rules of a country like Saudi Arabia seem as if they are unjust because they are too harsh on their own people. But if the actual evidence is observed, we can see that most of these punishments are given out to people who have committed serious crimes such as rape or murder. While the punishment for such laws draws upon from religious Islamic text, it is also based on the nature of the society. The reason I choose these countries is because I have lived in both of them. This has provided me with a perspective regarding how different two societies can be from one another especially in their everyday lives. To put it simply, from my observation, the mindset of a citizen from Saudi Arabia and an American is extremely different. This includes their dealings in everyday life, their mannerisms and other related things, even how they behave while driving. For example, the fines in Saudi Arabia for violating traffic rules are very high because a lot of cases in the past few years showed careless driving that resulted in accidents and deaths. I have seen myself how careless people in Saudi Arabia drive and that the only way to handle it was to have very strict traffic laws in place. However, in the U.S., people do not drive as rashly as someone would in Saudi Arabia so there was no need to be so strict with fines.

To say that a single law can thus be implemented successfully in both countries is not straightforward and does not take into account the society in practical life. To really implement a system that implements justice, the law must take into account how effective the results will be given the nature of society and the mindset of the people. The system of justice in Saudi Arabia has naturally evolved according to the culture and mindset of the people. It is similarly the case with the United States. However, evidence shows that Saudi Arabia has been effective in keeping crime low as a result while the case in the United States has historically been different because it is having different problems. Because the United States has had to deal with maintaining order between people from all over the world, it has found its own unique way of delivering justice and solving its problems. Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s justice system has evolved according to the needs of its own society.

But for a moment, let us also see the flaws in this argument. The issue arises that while Saudi Arabia has been effective in maintaining social order by delivering strict punishments, such laws can turn the people against the government. Most of this has to do with the open society we live in today, where the people of any country can observe how justice is delivered in another country and be influenced by it. If many people start disagreeing with their government in this way, it can result in chaos and unrest. This can happen in any society today, even in the USA, so maybe the time has passed when different kinds of laws could achieve similar positive results.

But while this is a possibility, our current world shows that different societies have different problems, and the justice system in each society has to understand the mindset of the people. It is not entirely true that a law that works in the United States would achieve similar results in Saudi Arabia. Drawing from my own experiences, I can argue that Saudi Arabia has been very effective in maintaining social order because of its strict laws. But while such laws work in my country, they will never work in the US. A conclusive argument can thus be made that while the laws in each society are different, they can achieve similar results if they are based on the needs and mindset of their own society.

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