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No matter what you think of the recent military coup in Egypt, I hope you'll be inspired and heartened by this young man. He speaks with force and clarity on economics, religion and its role in government, democracy, women's rights, and the rule of law, while making an incredibly important meta-point about the importance of both substance and process in democracy.

[video is subtitled; transcript below the fold]


(young boy, center camera, facing slightly to his left)
My name is Ali Ahmed. I'm in 1st grade preparatory [eq. 12 years].

I'm here today to help prevent Egypt from becoming a commodity owned by one person and to protest the confiscation of the constitution by one single party. We didn't get rid of a military regime to replace it with a fascist theocracy.

(female reporter, off camera)
Fascist theocracy? I don't even know what that means...

(Ali Ahmed)
Fascist theocracy is when you manipulate religion and enforce extremist regulations in the name of religion, even though religion doesn't command that.

Who taught you all this?

(Ali Ahmed)
I just know it.

How do you know it?

(Ali Ahmed)
I listen to people a lot, and I use my own brain. Plus I read newspapers, watch TV, and search the Internet.

So you see the country is not doing well and has to change?

(Ali Ahmed)
You mean politically or socially?

The social objectives of the revolution are yet to be achieved. Economic empowerment, freedom, and social justice. There still are no jobs. The police still jail people randomly. As for social justice, how can a news anchor get 30 million Egyptian pounds, while some people still pick food from the garbage?

Politically speaking: Where is the constitution that represents us? For example, women are half of the society. How come there are only 7 ladies in the Constituent Assembly, 6 of whom are Islamists?

So you think they are going to manipulate the constitution?

(Ali Ahmed)
What is built on falsehood is false itself. Even if the constitution is nice but the assembly that drafted it is bad, we will end up with something bad. Don't bring me 80 good articles and 20 bad ones that will ruin the country, and then tell me this is a constitution.

Did you read the constitutional draft?

(Ali Ahmed)

Where? On the Internet?)

(Ali Ahmed)
Yes. For example, they say women are equal to men in all matters, "except in matters that contradict Islamic law." But then Islamic law allows men to "discipline" their wives. This can't work in society.

Why not, what's the problem?

(Ali Ahmed)
The problem is that it's outrageous. I can't beat my wife up and almost kill her, and then tell you this is "discipline." This is not discipline, this is abuse and insanity.

All of this (political process) is void because the parliament in the first place is void. Popularly and constitutionally void. Some parties based their campaign on mixing religion and politics. Mosques were mobilizing voters. They distributed sugar and cooking oil to the voters and many other things like that.

I have it on good authority that this is a fair and accurate translation, although the young man actually sounds substantially more eloquent in the original Egyptian Arabic.

In any case, these are the kinds of ideas that are on the ground in Egypt - not just bigotry, sectarian fighting, and a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, but real (kind of left-wing, even) democratic idealism. This is what kids are learning from the Internet all over the world.

The kids are alright.

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