I like the commercial Christmas we now practice in this country. You know why? Because I'm an American. I love Santa. And Christmas trees, and lights, and presents and everything that makes you feel warm inside. Because I'm an American.
I was born Muslim. Nearly all my family is Muslim and people I love dearly are Muslim. I support and defend fellow Muslims. But I've got issues with Islam as a religion -- as I do with all of the major religions. And I'm not particularly fond of its culture, either.
Before you jump all over me for being politically incorrect and betraying my people, you should know that I was circumcised at the age of six. I still remember it, not fondly. You go through that and then you can criticize my views on Islam.
When you go to mosque, people take their shoes off and pray on the ground. This was originally meant as an act of cleanliness. It didn't work out that way. You smell a thousand Muslim feet as you bow down to the ground, and then we'll talk. Benches are the best Christian invention ever.
Did I mention I love Santa? Did you know that the original Saint Nicholas is from modern day Turkey? Coca Cola made up all that stuff about the North Pole. Actually it was an American poet in the late 1860's who made up Santa's residence, but Coke commercialized it. And that's what made it magical - and universal.
It turns out there were also no elves or polar bears that drink Coke. But you have to admit, those polar bears sure do look cute.
There are no cute polar bears in Islam. I was introduced to a cute little lamb after my circumcision. Just as I got used to it, it was sacrificed in my honor. You wonder why I prefer Christmas presents.
I am not a self-hater. I am proud of being a Turkish-American, as evidenced by the Santa Claus is from Turkey story. In fact, growing up with my dad I can tell you exactly how everyone is secretly Turkish, including Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley. I'm not kidding. I don't believe it either, but my dad found an American professor who does.
Another thing I don't believe - Islam. After studying all the major religions in college, I came to realize that they are all absolutely ridiculous.
According to the Old Testament, God will punish you to eternal damnation if you eat shrimp. Once again, I'm not kidding. This is less likely to be true than Elvis being Turkish. Yet, the Old Testament is the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Old Testament also says you can - no, you must - kill your child if he or she makes the mistake of cursing you. That kind of cruelty makes my circumcision story look like a walk in the park. I'm not for that God. I'm for Santa. You see, I'm an American.
I am amused when Christians say Islam is violent. Yeah, I didn't notice the Crusades, the Inquisition, two World Wars, the Holocaust, the genocide of the Native Americans or slavery either. All of that makes taking your shoes off in mosque seem relatively benign.
On the other hand, who thought bringing the suicide bomber back into fashion was a good idea? I recently heard Salman Rushdie tell the story of Islamic scholars debating whether the line about 72 virgins waiting in paradise for martyrs was a mistake. It turns out the Koran might mean 72 raisins instead. Rushdie asked the crowd to imagine the look on Mohammed Atta's face when Allah lets him in on that small misunderstanding.
Why would anyone need 72 virgins in heaven anyway when you could have 72 strippers in Vegas? Did I mention I'm an American?
This is the greatest country on earth. Not because we do senseless invasions of countries that did not attack us. Not because we believe a man was tortured and executed two thousand years ago for our sins - by the way, that is a profoundly weird idea if you have not been brought up to believe it. Not even because we have the greatest military ever built or that God loves us more.
America is the greatest country on earth because we invented Santa Claus. Yes, he might have been born in Turkey but he would have died in obscurity in a dusty, backwater town if it weren't for the genius of American marketers. Capitalism, baby. You can't beat it.
Just ask the Vietnamese. They resisted tons of our bombs and weaponry, but they were no match for Levi's and McDonald's.
You know why I love Santa? Because he doesn't hate anybody, he doesn't start any wars and he doesn't discriminate. He just does presents.
A lot of people don't know this, but Santa isn't Christian, either. As a little boy growing up in Turkey, we waited until New Year's Eve for Santa to come and give us our presents. Since he is a marketing invention in no way related to the religion of Christianity, we felt perfectly free to love him, too. Besides he does presents.
I love Christians who pretend that Christmas has anything to do with their religion. Really? Did Jesus come down the chimney before he was crucified? What part of the Bible has the reindeers in it? Was Rudolph from Bethlehem? Is it Blitzen of Nazareth?
The Christmas tree is an old pagan tradition from Germanic lands. Jesus was born nowhere near December 25th according to the Bible. The holiday is celebrated near the winter solstice to placate the pagans of Europe who would adopt Christianity if they didn't lose their fun traditions, like Christmas and Easter. Speaking of which, where is that cute little bunny in the Bible? Oh yeah, he's not there, either.
I love the America that built, or I should say enhanced and sold, this great tradition of Christmas. I love the America that is open and kind. I love the America that gives presents.
I love the America that built the United Nations. And the America that carried out the most magnanimous act since Saladin gave King Richard his horse back - the Marshall Plan. The America that rebuilt its worst enemies into its best allies. That's a country that is a brilliant and shining example to the world.
It turns my stomach to think of an America that now defends Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, spying on Americans without warrants, pre-emptive strikes, secret detentions and secret trials. They're defiling the America I know and love. Somebody bring back Santa.
America isn't the greatest country on earth because we are a Christian nation. We are the greatest because we were the first country to make sure we didn't base our nation on religion and ancient hatreds. We based it on reason, liberty and capitalism. And that brought us Santa and the Christmas we all know and love now. The commercial Christmas, the capitalist Christmas, the Christmas that makes you feel warm inside.
I love Santa. I am an American.