08/18/2010 01:38 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who's Afraid of a Mosque?

To be perfectly honest, I am glad for the controversy over the proposed Cordoba Center in Lower Manhattan- one could hardly design a better political litmus test. Indeed, as Senator Harry Reid shamefully yet usefully demonstrated, it transcends party lines. Forget gun control, same-sex marriage and abortion rights- these old standbys have long ago been claimed and now serve more to differentiate than to provoke meaningful discourse. The Ground Zero mosque dispute, however, tied up as it is with one of the greatest tragedies in our nation's history, is an extraordinary test of commitment to the ideals upon which this country is built.

Simply put, any unwillingness to defend their right to build the mosque indicates an extraordinary level of racially motivated cowardice. The mere fact that so many are standing idly by, tacitly consenting with figures such as Sarah Palin, suggests widespread and incipient hypocrisy amongst the American people. Such individuals, who persist under the illusion that ours is a Christian nation, barely deserve any of the freedoms they enjoy as Americans.

Actually coming out against the project, however, demonstrates a completely unacceptable willingness to flout our guaranteed basic rights as citizens. There is not a single legitimate, defensible reason why the Cordoba Center should not be built. To claim, therefore, that it should be erected "somewhere else" is to hold Muslim-Americans to a dangerous double standard. Furthermore, any such claim- necessarily based on some extralegal notion- is inherently based on some conception of Muslims as a dangerous "other" who must be carefully controlled. The Constitutional implications are so obvious as to be almost immaterial in this instance; one does not need a J.D. to understand that such opposition is in abject violation of basic First Amendment rights. The fact that a debate exists, therefore, hinges on entirely separate- and far more disconcerting- factors.

To repeat that the 9/11 hijackers had a perverted understanding of their own religion is hardly necessary. Why, then, should there be any opposition to the Cordoba Center at all? In the absence of a tangible explanation it seems little more than base racial opportunism. Sensing a chance to vent misplaced aggression, many have found this a convenient way to make clear the way they feel about Muslim Americans. Instead of taking this opportunity to embrace an already marginalized segment of our society, a good many have decided that they would rather continue to shun and fear them. As has been proven, such alienation only serves to create artificial tension between Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The result is an endless loop- within which we are all caught- fueled by ignorance and baseless hatred.

For the time being, though, I remain grateful for the controversy. Never before has it been easier to judge a politician's, or a citizen's, credibility. Truly, everyone is entitled to their opinion. One cannot oppose the center, however, without sacrificing much of what we are meant to hold dear as Americans. Choose your side wisely; consider carefully the implications of your stance. If you feel like going the way of the many who have spoken out against the Cordoba Center, then by all means do so. It is, after all, your right.