It’s not just lower Manhattan

IT’S NOT JUST LOWER MANHATTAN…. For Republican opponents of the proposed Cordoba House in lower Manhattan, 9/11 is available as a rationalization — they want to deny some Americans religious liberty because a Muslim community center is a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. They insist this isn’t about transparent bigotry towards a faith community the right should consider allies — Feisal Abdul Rauf is committed to fighting radicalism — but rather, it’s about 9/11 sensitivity.

Of course, while some conservatives fight against the Cordoba House, other conservatives are fighting “in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations.” In Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin, for example, far-right groups are vehemently opposed to new houses of worship for Muslims because, well, the far-right groups hate Muslims.

Diana Serafin, a grandmother who lost her job in tech support this year, said she reached out to others she knew from attending Tea Party events and anti-immigration rallies. She said they read books by critics of Islam, including former Muslims like Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan and Manoucher Bakh. She also attended a meeting of the local chapter of ACT! for America, a Florida-based group that says its purpose is to defend Western civilization against Islam.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that…. I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion. But Islam is not about a religion

The fact that Serafin recently lost her job is relevant — times of economic distress invariably lead anxiety-ridden conservatives to lash out hysterically at minority groups as scapegoats.

But it’s worth emphasizing that the bigots’ activism isn’t just offensive, and doesn’t just help Osama bin Laden’s agenda, but it’s also wildly self-defeating.

A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts.

Radicalization of alienated Muslim youths is a real threat, Mr. Bagby said. “But the youth we worry about,” he said, “are not the youth that come to the mosque.”

No, the youth we have to worry about — those likely to be radicalized — are those who listen to conservative activists and leaders who insist on telling them that they’re second-class citizens whose rights are lesser than everyone else’s.