A reader writes:

I have been following the manufactured mosque controversy but not until last night was the depth of its penetration so apparent to me.

My wife and I went out to dinner with ten of our neighbors. Eight of our group identify strongly with the current mold of the Republican party. I cannot call them conservatives although that is assuredly how they would describe themselves. But their supple willingness to swallow the dyspeptic paranoia fed them by Palin, Gingrich, Cheney and their fellow travelers and then disgorge it as their own view no longer entitles them to the mantle of conservative, at least in my view.

At dinner, the Cordoba Mosque came up with the six of us at my end of the table. These five friends oppose the mosque to a person. They have no coherent argument as to why beyond what they have been fed, that this is an affront to the victims of 9/11.

But they do have an answer to first amendment issues. They contend, as have others, that somehow Islam is not covered under the Constitutional protections. While they did not exactly call Islam a cult rather than a religion, there was no doubt they do not feel it deserves the same consideration of Christianity and Judaism in the United States. All of them would contend that they are strict Constitutional constructionists but somehow believe that a faith followed by 1.5 billion worldwide is not a true religion.

They kept coming back to the "sacred ground" concept, that somehow this spot is sanctified, but only for non-Muslims. Never mind the followers of Islam that died in the towers. In their view no Muslim should be permitted to worship in this area.

Which led me to my final point and question. Muslims pray five times a day and at least two of those prayers (noon and afternoon) would take place during the workday. Since this ground is too holy to have an Islamic facility several blocks away, must they not then insist on a prohibition of the employment of Muslims in the new tower? After all, those prayers by those workers would be offered on the actual site of the tragedy, in multiple places in the 105 stories of the building.

There was some hemming and hawing but it was clear I had made no headway. It has gone far beyond the mosque, which is just a handy symbol those spouting these conspiracy theories upon which they can hang their foul arguments, petty fears and thinly veiled racist beliefs.

These people are my friends and shall remain so. But I wonder today: Have they been led in this direction or have they always held these views and were waiting for affirmation of them from those they see as national leaders.

I fear the answer to that question.

So do I. You know who doesn't fear the answer to that question - indeed relishes and desires it? Osama bin Laden.

(Disgusting Carl Paladino ad via Time)

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