By Will Shonbrun

The controversy over a Muslim community center and mosque being constructed in close proximity to the WTC’s “Ground Zero” is an exercise in bigoted illogic. The argument goes: It was people of the Muslim faith that perpetrated the horrific murders of thousands and therefore a mosque near that site is an affront to all Americans. Here’s the trouble with that argument.

While it’s true that the people who ordered, planned and executed that monstrous crime are Muslims, they are members of a small minority of a radical, extremist and murderous faction of that religion of 1.2 billion practitioners, who ardently disavow them, their perverted beliefs and their methods, here in this country and practically every Muslim country. Painting all Muslims with a brush of terrorist or terrorist sympathizer makes as much sense as condemning white Christians for the crimes of Timothy McVeigh, or aligning all Southerners for the acts of the KKK. Do we say no Catholic churches near schools because there are some priests who have abused children?

Because every religion seems to give rise to some faction of radical, unlawful, psychopathic extremists does not mean it is emblematic of the principles of that religion, and is in fact the antithesis of those beliefs. A radical, orthodox Jew assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin some years ago. Are all orthodox Jews terrorist murderers? Drawing such conclusions is preposterous.

And, more important, it’s dangerous. It’s an excuse for bigotry and persecution. It’s a pretense for denying the civil rights of a group of Americans by innuendo, and if it works this time it makes it all the more easy for it to happen again, whether it’s Muslims or some other group.

It’s a situation that is being cynically and unethically employed by some politicians to gain support in some quarters in order to gain votes. It is an appeal to the basest instincts, innate prejudices and unwarranted fears of some of our citizens by self-serving politicians and those who abet and encourage bigotry, hatred and distrust – the bottom-feeders of society.

There is another argument that is being put forth that sounds reasonable, but on examination is flawed. There are those who are saying – DNC Chairman Howard Dean on the national scene and Sonoma County Supervisor Shirley Zane locally – that the Muslim organization proposing the community center should be sensitive to the opposition to its location and find another site further away. Taken to its logical conclusion that means unpopular decisions should be tried in the court of public opinion and disregard constitutional laws established to protect civil rights. Think what this kind of bowing to public pressure would have meant to the great civil rights struggles fought valiantly in our country over the years.

Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg of NYC for defending the Muslim center on First Amendment grounds and dispelling critics’ cries of sacrilege. Obama should have had the courage to stop after his first comment instead of equivocating, and Democrats like Harry Reid are political cowards. If President John Adams were alive he’d be the legal advocate for the Muslim group wanting to build in lower Manhattan. He and the other founders knew it was the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights that was the backbone of our democracy, the framework upon which all the constitutional protections are constructed. If it crumbles we all go down with it.