COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE, FOOT-SHOOTING BIGOTRY…. I don’t often agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, but his observation this morning on the proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan is both insightful and important. (via John Cole)

This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative’s planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama’s most dire enemies are Muslims. This is quantitatively true, of course — al Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have murdered thousands of Muslims — but it is ideologically true as well: al Qaeda’s goal is the purification of Islam (that is to say, its extreme understanding of Islam) and apostates pose more of a threat to Bin Laden’s understanding of Islam than do infidels.

I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I’ve spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of this mosque project are giving him what he wants.

The anti-Muslim bigotry has been painful and offensive, but the counterproductinve idiocy of conservative leaders railing against the Cordoba House has often gone overlooked.

Feisal Abdul Rauf isn’t some dangerous extremist for Republicans and Tea Partiers to fear; he’s a longtime local imam, active in the Manhattan community, and committed to fighting radicalism. Indeed, he considers it a personal mission. The proposed building is intended to be a monument to tolerance and respect.

For folks like Gingrich, Cheney, Giuliani, et al, Feisal Abdul Rauf is exactly the kind of American ally who should be embraced. Instead, the right is going to genuinely ridiculous lengths to isolate, offend, and ostracize him, signaling their belief that all Muslim Americans should be treated as second-class citizens.

If Osama bin Laden were to write a script for what he’d like to see happen here, it’d be identical to the one Gingrich & Co. are following. This isn’t intended to question their patriotism, but rather, their sanity.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.