Feted alternately as a new father for a new Afghanistan, a liberator of Afghan women and a champion of democracy, Karzai, let us remember, was an all-round hero until very recently. Now that Karzai is doing what any self-respecting politician would do in his situation — making overtures to old adversaries, putting on a show for his constituency, and flexing his muscles to demonstrate how truly dangerous he can be — he is being painted as a heroin-user and a corrupt and unworthy ally…
Standing by the elected Karzai — no matter how cozy he becomes with Pakistan and the Kandahari Taliban — is the only way for India to affirm its status as a secure and truly powerful regional hegemon. Moreover, it is the only course of action that is consistent with the Indian democratic narrative. Standing in Karzai's way because Indian hawks are worried about Pakistani influence in Afghanistan would immeasurably short-sighted, because Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan is inevitable and organic. Besides, Karzai's ventality, corruption and incompetence should not be so strange for South Asians. Our South Asian politics is like this only. Karzai was, is, and will remain, one of our own. -- Mosharraf Zaidi
In 40 years of writing about the Middle East, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square. In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space — a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated — and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant. … After we walked across the Nile bridge, Professor Mamoun Fandy remarked to me that there is an old Egyptian poem that says: “The Nile can bend and turn, but what is impossible is that it would ever dry up.’ The same is true of the river of freedom that is loose here now. Maybe you can bend it for a while, or turn it, but it is not going to dry up.” -- Thomas L. Friedman
The public face of the ‘Islamic’ revival, that was directed against the Mubarak regime (implicitly, in some cases, overtly in the case of underground radical Islamists, who have been subjected to harsh repression), which I saw all around me was by no means a positive one, even though its target—toppling Mubarak and his cronies—may have been a laudable objective. The dominant version of Islam that informed this revival seemed to me to be harsh, fun-less and punitive, and, at the same time, thoroughly incapable of providing a progressive alternative to Mubarak’s regime, although it definitely had the potency to challenge it. It sat in the growls, scowls and permanent frowns of the vast numbers of men propelling it. It lay in voluminous tomes and fatwas that prescribed medieval laws for dealing with contemporary problems. It was definitely anti-intellectual, as reflected in the enormous number of books I spotted in Cairene bookstores that (so I learned from an Indian student at al-Azhar who translated their titles and tables of contents for me) spoke of Islam in terms of empty slogans, offering no sensible guidance for running the affairs of a modern society and economy deeply networked into a globalised world. It was reflected in graffiti scribbled on street walls exclaiming in triumph, ‘East or West, Islam is the best’ and ‘Islam is THE solution’. It was also incarnated in waves of bombings of churches and the growing demonization of local Christians as alleged conspirators against Islam.
Mubarak certainly deserved to go, of that there was no doubt, but as to whether those who will now replace him, including, possibly, the Islamists, will prove to be any better I am not so sure. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
The traditional Western notion that Muslims can't "handle" and therefore do not "deserve" democracy has been a widespread one, shared by many among our Hindu Right as well.
The history of military takeovers and coups in Pakistan, and subsequently also Bangladesh, was always a telling comparison.
It is a pity these people never heard or understood Faiz Ahmed Faiz's "Hum Dekhenge", the finest, sharpest and shrewdest call to a society's democratic impulse from any modern poet. They should even now hear it in the voice of the late Iqbal Bano (at http://www.radioreloaded.com/tracks/?11 002) when she rendered it in a Lahore stadium at the peak of Zia's dictatorship, arguably Pakistan's toughest, and the most "Islamic" so far. Listen then to the audience come alive, cheer, sing along and scream in joy and democratic defiance with the lines "jab raj karegi khalq-e-khuda, jo main bhi hun or tum bhi ho" (when power shall return to God's people, like you and I) or, "jab takht giraye jayenge, jab taj uchhale jayenge" (when thrones are tilted, when crowns are tossed) -knowing exactly who all this was referring to. Almost every member of the audience was a Muslim -and had the same democratic impulse that any other human being anywhere in the world, and believing in any religion, would have. -- Shekhar Gupta
Thimpu: The day the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan were to meet on the sidelines of the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting ‘with an open mind’, as Nirupama Rao put it, Hafiz Sayeed, one of the accused in the Mumbai terror attacks who heads the Lashkar-e-Taiyba warned that if India did not leave Kashmir, it should be ready for war with Pakistan. Though India chose to ignore his ‘threats’ as it has done his earlier ones, it showed that Pakistan was not serious in resolving bilateral issues through dialogue by allowing its official and unofficial spokesmen to vitiate the atmosphere before any dialogue between the two countries. -- New Age Islam News Bureau
Well, the wait is over. TEHELKA has scooped the sensational 600-page inquiry report into Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 massacre. The content is shocking and will come as a serious blow to the carefully cultivated image of Modi as an able administrator and a man of good governance. For eight years, riot victims and human rights groups have cried hoarse about the deliberate miscarriage of justice in Gujarat. About how the police and State machinery had either ignored or abetted rioters and created the space for massacres to happen; about how some ruling party politicians had goaded the public mood to new danger levels; about the State’s blatant and continuing prejudice against the victims; about public prosecutors who were subverting justice in the courts by helping the accused instead of nailing their guilt.
But as the years passed, despite the glaring evidence, the accusations lost their sting and were deemed to be, as Advani called it, merely a vicious maligning campaign. Modi won two elections and the effects of the counter-propaganda began to kick in. Both corporate heads and sections of the national media began to hail Modi as a great statesman and potential prime minister. His sins of omission and commission were set aside. The Congress, blunted by its own abysmal handling of the 1984 Sikh riots, stayed meekly quiet. But now, for the first time, there is damning official confirmation of many things victims and human rights groups have been accusing Modi of. -- ASHISH KHETAN
“The Arab world is on fire”, Al Jazeera reported on January 27, while throughout the region Western allies “are quickly losing their influence”. The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator’s brutal police.
The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt’s vice-president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself. A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the US and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.
The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against “a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”, ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. This was the assessment by US ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks. -- Noam Chomsky
Islamic role is essential
These fears are overblown. The threat posed by Islamists seizing power is more often than not a crutch used by autocrats to safeguard their positions, secure foreign aid and snap up White House invitations. We have seen this in spades since 9/11, when presidents from Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf to Egypt's Mubarak played up the threat of radical Islamists at home to secure more goodies from Washington namely billions of dollars worth of aid and military hardware and retain power. Their relationship vis-à-vis the U.S. can best be summed up: Hey, we may not be perfect, but trust me, the alternative is worse.
But let's face it, for a democratic coalition to come to power in Egypt it has to make political room for religious groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. That isn't a bad thing. Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition candidate for president, has won the Brotherhood's support. And some Muslim Brothers have participated in the recent protests, though their role and influence remain unclear. The political scientist Barrington Moore once famously posited: "No bourgeoisie, no democracy." What we are seeing is the Arab world corollary: No Islamist representation, no democracy. -- Lionel Beehner, USA TODAY
The hypocrisy of liberals is breath- taking: they supported democra- cy, and now, when the Egyptians revolt on behalf of secular freedom, they are concerned ONE CANNOT CLAIM, AS IN THE CASE OF ALGERIA A DECADE AGO, THAT ALLOWING TRULY FREE ELECTIONS EQUALS DELIVERING POWER TO MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISTS.
What cannot but strike the eye in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is the conspicuous absence of Muslim fundamentalism. In the best secular democratic tradition, people simply revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. The cynical wisdom of western liberals, according to which, in Arab countries, genuine democratic sense is limited to narrow liberal elites while the vast majority can only be mobilised through religious fundamentalism or nationalism, has been proven wrong. So what will happen next? Who'll emerge as the political winner? -- Slavoj Zizek
In the wake of startling revelations about the involvement of Hindutva groups in numerous acts of terror across India in recent years, last week a number of human rights organizations jointly held a one-day public meeting in New Delhi under the banner ‘Tracing Sangh Terror Links And Stories Of Innocent Muslim Boys’ to highlight an issue that has hitherto received scant media attention. Several social and political activists gave their testimonies, as did Muslim men and their relatives who have been unfairly targeted by the police for acts of terror in which they had no involvement at all.--Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
The West Asia’s latest unrest has revived once again a tired debate about the power of social media. Recent headlines gush about the arrival of the “Facebook Revolution” or “Twitter Diplomacy”. Critics like Evgeny Morozov respond by noting that the influence of new media has been exaggerated by a press enthralled with “techno-utopianism”. Social media enables fast coordination, critics say, not the narrative or resolve necessary to sustain a movement; flashmobs do not a political organisation make.
But to state the obvious — that Facebook cannot replace good old-fashioned activism — is not to say much about what Facebook actually does in a place like Egypt. What does it do? -- Andrew K. Woods
On Sunday 30 January Rashid Al-Ghannouchi, the 69 year old leader of the Tunisian Islamic movement, returned home after a long exile in London. The international media has interpreted Al-Ghannouchi's return as the most potent symbol yet of the dramatic changes that have taken place in Tunisia in recent weeks.
Al-Ghannouchi is widely regarded to represent the most liberal and progressive strand in Arab Islamist politics. Born in 1941 in Qabis province (southern Tunisia) he received higher education in Cairo, Damascus and the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1981 Al-Ghannouchi founded the Al-Ittijah al-Islami (Islamic Tendency) which was renamed Hizb al-Nahda (aka Hizb Ennahda) or the Renaissance Party in 1989.
Al-Ghannouchi has been at the forefront to resistance against authoritarian regimes in Tunisia from the early 1980s. His return to Tunisia looks set to bring about important changes not only in his native country but North Africa more broadly and perhaps even further afield. Coupled with wider developments in the region (notably the unrest in Egypt) it may mark the point at which Islamists are gradually allowed to fully participate in the politics and governance of North African states.
Mahan Abedin conducted this interview in London on Thursday 27 January 2011.
Photo: Mahan Abedin with Rashid Al-Ghannoushi during the interview conducted in London on 27 january 2011.
A newspaper published from Delhi has gone to the extent of accusing Maulana Vastanvi of buying off six members of the Majlis-e-Shoura to win the election. According to the newspaper, out of 14 members present that day, eight voted in his favour while six went against him. This means that originally only two members voted in his favour. This is a very serious allegation which should be strongly refuted by the Majlis-e-Shoura. But it is surprising as well as painful that neither Maulana Vastanvi nor the members of the Shoura have said anything repudiating the charge. The same members are going to meet on the 23rd of February to decide his fate. Some people think that it is not appropriate to point fingers at the Majlis-e-Shoura as they are sacrosanct. But they should be reminded that even Hadhrat Umar (R.A.) was held accountable and had given explanation in public. Therefore, the Majlis-e-Shoura’s silence on the allegations only strengthens suspicions. How can those who themselves are in the dock be the judge? -- Sohail Arshad, NewAgeIslam.com
And one of the problems has been created by the regime itself; it has systematically got rid of anyone with charisma, thrown them out of the country, politically emasculating any real opposition by imprisoning many of them. The Americans and the EU are telling the regime to listen to the people – but who are these people, who are their leaders? This is not an Islamic uprising – though it could become one – but, save for the usual talk of Muslim Brotherhood participation in the demonstrations, it is just one mass of Egyptians stifled by decades of failure and humiliation.
But all the Americans seem able to offer Mubarak is a suggestion of reforms – something Egyptians have heard many times before. It's not the first time that violence has come to Egypt's streets, of course. In 1977, there were mass food riots – I was in Cairo at the time and there were many angry, starving people – but the Sadat government managed to control the people by lowering food prices and by imprisonment and torture. There have been police mutinies before – one ruthlessly suppressed by Mubarak himself. But this is something new. -- Robert Fisk
It’s time to think about the nature of the next Arab-Israeli war. The release by the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera of 16,000 leaked Palestinian documents covering the past 10 years of peace negotiations has driven a stake through the heart of the already moribund “peace process”, and we hear constant warnings that when the hope of a peace settlement is finally extinguished, the next step is a return to war...
It would certainly not be like the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, in which regular armies fought stand-up battles with lots of heavy weapons. Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the countries that fought those wars on behalf of the Arabs, have long since abandoned the goal of matching Israeli military power. They don’t even buy the right kind of weapons, in the right amounts, to stand a chance against Israel on the battlefield. -- Gwynne Dyer
Since our heroes comprise murderers, plunderers, looters, conspirators and traitors, what else can we expect from those who are indoctrinated to emulate them? In a state where such individuals are glorified and a society where such personalities are applauded, there is not one but countless Mumtaz Qadris’ epitomizing all characteristics of a murderer, a conspirator and a traitor. How unfortunate that we could not portray intellectuals, writers and poets, scientists and inventors, painters and artists, philanthropists and social workers, missionaries of peace and ambassadors of goodwill as our heroes. -- Waseem Altaf
Photo: Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan
In the wake of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's resignation and his flight to Saudi Arabia, the overwhelming emotion is one of hope for a better, democratic future for Tunisia. "A 24-year era of repression has come to an end," says Ahmed Brahim, whose opposition party holds three seats in parliament. "That's what we always hoped for, but we never believed it might really be possible."
This is a feeling he most likely shares with most Tunisians. For the first time since President Ben Ali took over from his sick predecessor Habib Bourguiba in 1987, people are free to state their opinions and form political organisations as they see fit. "The time of oppression is over," says a visibly delighted Brahim. "Now we have to look to the future. -- Alfred Hackensberger
Photo: A figure of hate for many Tunisians while life for ordinary citizens became increasingly difficult, 53-year-old Leila Ben Ali, second wife of the former president, and her family reportedly amassed a fortune.
It is the first time in history that an Arab ruler has been chased out of power by street demonstrations, and that too without any organisation by a political party. The sheer disgust at the corrupt and repressive regime brought out thousands of men and women to face the army and police.Is it the first Facebook or Twitter revolution Was Ben Ali the first victim of the WikiLeaks revelations Or was it a victory for the hacker-activists or hacktivists as they are known
The protests were preceded by a cyber war fought between the government censors and Tunisian and foreign hacktivists. As the government had total control of the media, the ingenious opponents fought back with proxy servers, virtual private networks and encryption. Images of violent suppression uploaded via thousands of YouTube clips,often relayed on Al Jazeera, were watched by angry citizens who coordinated protests with tens of thousands of Twitter messages an hour. The power of the internet was recognised by the emerging new power when a 33-year-old dissident blogger, Slim Amamou, was selected as the minister of youth and sports in the new interim government. Only days earlier, Amamou was handcuffed to a chair in the ministry of interior, subjected to psychological torture for a week. -- Nayan Chanda
Those who snigger at India’s secularism should perhaps take a step back from the fence that separates us from Pakistan. Only then will they realise how fortunate we actually are. All the forces of primeval passion, let loose by the Partition, were baying for a Hindu state mirroring that of Pakistan; blood for blood, and so on. Pakistan has not made matters easier either. Every time it gets too hot and crowded in their kitchen, they open the window and throw junk in our backyard. There have been more times than we would like to remember when we have given in to ethnic passions. That we did not go all the way is because secular values are still with us, courtesy, the founders of our Constitution. If we want to believe like our forefathers did, if we want to tremble at the sound of thunder, if we want to be helpless in the face of avoidable diseases, we should go back to religious passions. If, on the other hand, we want to enjoy the comforts of today, the sciences of today, then we better get secular. There is much more to secularism than mere religious tolerance, religious equidistance, or even religious goodwill. Without secularism there is no development, and that is the hard truth. The choice is clear. We can either think like our grandparents and go ethnic, or think of our grandchildren, as Keynes did, and become secular. There is no other option! -- Dipankar Gupta
On the other hand, the supervisor of Mother Academy, Deoband and advocate Arshad Ali Khan has made some statements suggesting that Maulana Vastanvi’s appointment was done at the behest of Ahmad Patel. It means that the decision was influenced by the Congress and the central government. He said, “One allegation against the Majlis-e-Shura is that now it is dominated by politicians and the rich and academicians and scholars have taken a back seat. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and Maulana Vastanvi have been accused of using money power.” Mr Khan further said that the Majlis-e-Shura ignored the views of the Elders of the community like Maulana Mahmood Hussain Madani, Maulana Rabey Husni Nadvi, Janab Maulana Md Talha, Maulana Syed Arshad Madani, Maulan Usman Mansoorpuri and elected the Vice-Chancellor. Significantly, Maulana Vastanvi is pro-Madrasa Board which the Centre wants to persuade madrasas in India to adopt. Darul Uloom Deoband had opposed the proposed Central Madrasa Board. -- New Age Islam Edit Desk
Photo: Maulana Vastanvi presenting the controversial picture
Every 23 July for the past 58 years Egypt, my country of birth, has celebrated its "July revolution" that overthrew King Farouk and ended the monarchy and British occupation once and for all. It was no revolution: it was a coup staged by young army officers.
And so it has been with a series of "revolutions" around the Arab world in which a succession of military men went on to lead us in civilian clothes – some kept the olive drabs on – and rob generations of the real meaning of revolution. For years I looked at the Iranians with envy – not at the outcome of their 1979 revolution, but because it was a popular uprising, not a euphemism for a coup.
So you'll understand why, along with millions of other Arabs, I'll forever cherish 14 January 2011 – the day Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, his 23-year rule toppled by 29 days of a popular uprising. A real revolution for a change. --Mona Eltehawy
Salmaan Taseer was killed by his own bodyguard on January 4 in Islamabad and he was only 66. God in the Holy Quran says that “no people can hasten their term, nor can they delay it” (23.43). So Salmaan’s time had come just like it will for all of us. But Salmaan died like a courageous man, with his boots on. I am sure this is the way he would have wanted to go taking a principled stand for something he believed in. He did not die crawling.
The pity is that his death may cow down the remaining few sane voices in the country. One could perceive this while watching the programmes on various television channels following his murder. There is hardly an anchorperson bold enough to outrightly defend what Salmaan stood for and the politicians are a foregone conclusion anyway. Every politician becomes a martyr in Pakistan but nobody is willing to call Salmaan one. Is it because they do not believe in what he stood for, or are they scared of the repercussions?The worst part is that the lower class folks I came across on Tuesday unanimously supported his death, ranging from the cooks to the chowkidars. They all said that he stood for blasphemy and deserved to die. This is a sad and dangerous trend.
The question is, who is going to change this mind-set and how? One cannot expect any sort of action from the present rulers because they lack the will, the vision and the intellect to do any such thing. The military has the might but it also has its limitations as such extremists are present in its midst as well and an intervention of any sort would be denounced and the political forces may suddenly unite against it. This leaves us with the media and the intellectuals. -- Anees Jilani
FOR THE first time in the 20- year- long period of insurgency in Kashmir, a votary of the secessionist movement has made a brutally frank confession about the killing of some prominent men of his own ilk. Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, a leader of the Hurriyat Conference’s moderate faction, categorically said on Sunday that the security forces had played no role in the killings of separatist leaders Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone as well as Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front ( JKLF) ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani. -- Naseer Ganai
Sometimes it takes time. The admission by Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, a key member of the original Hurriyat, that the gunmen who had assassinated top leaders such as Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, People’s Conference and Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front ( JKLF) ideologue Abdul Ahad Wani, had been killed “ by our own people” and not the Indian security forces is part of the painful process through which Kashmiri separatist leaders are coming to terms with the turbulent history of their own movement. -- Manoj Joshi
Recounting a long list of anti-Muslim brutalities (but conveniently ignoring similar outrages committed by Muslims on others), Maulana Ahmed exhorts his listeners to unite and take revenge. ‘O Muslims!,’ he shrilly appeals, ‘get up and take in hand your arrows, pick up your Kalashnikovs, train yourselves in explosives and bombs, organise yourselves into armies, prepare nuclear attacks and destroy every part of the body of the enemy.’ His speech is peppered with fervent calls for what he terms as ‘jihad’ against both America and India, these being projected as inveterate foes of Islam and of all Muslims. He prays for America to ‘be destroyed’, and ecstatically celebrates the recent devastating terrorist assault on Mumbai by a self-styled Islamist group that left vast numbers of people dead, unapologetically hailing the dastardly act as a ‘big slap on the cheek of the Hindus’. Not stopping at this, he calls for continuous terrorist violence against India, including, he advises, unleashing ‘bloodbath to [sic.] Indian and American diplomats in Kabul and Kandahar’. Only then, he argues, can Pakistan’s rulers ‘relieve the pressure’ on them and being peace to their country.
The ‘enemy’, as Maulana Ahmed constructs the notion, could be any and every non-Muslim, particularly Americans, Jews and Hindus or Indians. It is as if every non-Muslim is, by definition, irredeemably opposed to Islam and is necessarily engaged in a grand global conspiracy to wipe Islam from off the face of the earth. It is as if non-Muslims have no other preoccupation at all. All non-Muslims are thus tarred with the same brush, and no exceptions whatsoever are made. It is almost as if Maulana Ahmed desperately wants all non-Muslims to be fired by anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic vitriol, for that is his way to whip up the sentiments of his Muslim followers and fire their zeal and faith. It is as if further stoking such hatred is crucial to his ability to maintain a following and to claim to authoritatively speak for Islam and its adherents. ‘The hatred among the people against the kafirs has reached a new height,’ the Maulana exults. For the Maulana, fomenting hatred of non-Muslims is his chosen way of realising what has for centuries remained the elusive dream of Muslim unity. That this hatred, which he so passionately celebrates, inevitably further stokes the fires of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice, already so widespread among non-Muslims, appears of no concern to him at all. In fact, he seems to positively relish the frightening Huntingtonian thesis of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’.
Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith outfits today enjoy tremendous clout in Pakistan, and they have been at the forefront of Islamist militancy that now threatens to drown the country in the throes of what promises to be an interminable civil war. As the speeches of these two Pakistani clerics, one a Deobandi and the other from the Ahl-e Hadith, so starkly indicate, inveterate hatred for India and the Hindus, indeed for non-Muslims in general, is integral to the ways in which vast numbers of Pakistani Muslim clerics understand religion, community, nationalism and the world. Such hatred is inevitably further fuelled by acts of brutality directed against Muslims by non-Muslims, including by the United States, India (particularly in Kashmir) and by militantly anti-Muslim Hindu chauvinist groups. Muslim and non-Muslim right-wing radicalism and militancy thus enjoy a mutually symbiotic relationship, opposing each other while, ironically, unable to live apart, needing each other even simply to define themselves. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
The New York Times’ columnists Gail Collins and David Brooks talk about Christmas and where do you stand on the all-encompassing, retail-sales-enhancing holiday season?
Gail Collins: David, I know you’re a big fan of community-building activities. How do you come down on Christmas? I don’t mean the religious feast but the all-encompassing, retail-sales-enhancing holiday season. In which Americans of all stripes celebrate the winter solstice with family gatherings, exchanges of gifts and cards and the singing of really terrible seasonal songs.
Actually, the songs are the one part that I think cannot be pulled off without religiosity. That Mariah Carey thing, which is apparently the most popular holiday song in the nation, is worse than “A Holly Jolly Christmas”. -- Gail Collins and David Brooks