ENERGIZING MORE THAN JUST THE GOP BASE, CONT’D…. As conservatives become more animated in their demands that Muslim American face discrimination, it’s becoming increasingly important to appreciate the consequences of the right’s hysteria. As we talked about yesterday, it’s not just the Republican base feeling energized by the “debate.”

Frank Rich had a very good column over the weekend, noting, “After 9/11, President Bush praised Islam as a religion of peace and asked for tolerance for Muslims not necessarily because he was a humanitarian or knew much about Islam but because national security demanded it. An America at war with Islam plays right into Al Qaeda’s recruitment spiel. This month’s incessant and indiscriminate orgy of Muslim-bashing is a national security disaster for that reason — Osama bin Laden’s ‘next video script has just written itself,’ as the former F.B.I. terrorist interrogator Ali Soufan put it.”

NPR reported today that experts in counter-terrorism believe the controversy surrounding the Park51 proposal may play “right into the hands of radical extremists.” (thanks to B.A. tip)

The supercharged debate over the proposed center has attracted the attention of a quiet, underground audience — young Muslims who drift in and out of jihadi chat rooms and frequent radical Islamic sites on the Web. It has become the No. 1 topic of discussion in recent days and proof positive, according to some of the posted messages, that America is indeed at war with Islam.

“This, unfortunately, is playing right into their hands,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks these kinds of websites and chat rooms for Flashpoint Global partners, a New York-based security firm. “Extremists are encouraging all this, with glee.

“It is their sense that by doing this that Americans are going to alienate American Muslims to the point where even relatively moderate Muslims are going to be pushed into joining extremist movements like al-Qaida. They couldn’t be happier.” […]

Extremists and radical clerics posted a stream of “I told you so” messages: After years of telling followers that Islam was under attack by the West, the harsh reaction to a simple community center seemed to prove it.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric linked to the Fort Hood shootings and the failed Christmas Day attempt, recently released an appeal to disaffected American Muslims, who may be feeling ostracized by American society. Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation, said the fear is Awlaki will gain more credibility.

“Over the past nine to 12 months, Anwar al-Awlaki has tried to promote this notion that the West, and particularly the United States, will turn on its Muslim citizens,” Fishman said. “And some of the anti-Islamic tone that has been going around the country in connection with the mosque debate feeds into this notion that people like Anwar al-Awlaki can take advantage of.”

Opposing efforts to improve the economy, willingly providing fodder to our enemies, demanding sweeping changes to our Constitution … I’m not sure what the United States did to offend conservative activists so much, but for all of our sake, I wish they’d reconsider.

Steve Benen

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.