Singling out Muslim Americans, much as with prejudice against Jewish Americans and Catholic Americans before them, will prove to be wrong. The question is how much damage will be done before the fear subsides.
Adherents to Islam form a vulnerable racial minority before a prejudiced media that uses religious misnomers like "Islamic terrorist" to develop public support for attacking adherents to Islam, a word that literally means "Peace."
With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan upon us, and campaign mode in full swing, we can be sure that the vitriol and fear mongering will only escalate, as it did last summer. So the salient question now is: what will it cost us?
Models for pluralistic societies based on liberal democratic values exist throughout the historical landscape, independent of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It bodes well that they may be freely adopted by all cultures.
We need to be more informed about Islam and its followers and push back against hate speech and fear-based rhetoric that lumps one of the world's greatest and most diverse faiths into a monolithic block.
Americans will need to be careful not to play the sucker for the power plays of would-be presidents such as Gingrich, who pick racism and bigotry up from the dustbin and place it in a showy new outfit.
Some will never be convinced of the moral legitimacy of Muslims seeking a place of worship close to Ground Zero. Yet many may change. Giving that moderate center a fair chance rests partly with the organizers of the Cordoba Center.
Islamophobia and its culture of hate is not only a threat to the civil liberties of Muslims but also the very fabric of who we are and what we stand for, the principles and values embodied in our constitution.
When Jones and his followers attack Islam and when Ham and his disciples attack evolution, they are doing so with the certainty that their way is the only way, that they are saving souls, and that all they need to know can be found in the Bible.
The proliferating nature of these anti-mosque demonstrations and their shifting tenor to panicked claims about the imminent threats of "Islamization" and "Shariazation" begs a moment of national introspection.
Republicans have dug a deep hole for themselves on matters related to Islam reflecting the extent to which the Party has become captive of the neo-conservative "clash of civilization" crowd and their partners on the evangelical Christian right.
Once up and running, it won't be long before we know if the founders of the Cordoba Center have delivered on their promise. If so, New York and America will be enriched. If not, the center should be shunned.
Efforts to prohibit the construction of Islamic centers and mosques undermine American principles and move us closer to a Europe where restrictions on religious liberty are the most common means of "dealing" with Islam.
Given the vitriol spewing forth these days against mosque proposals elsewhere, the opposition to the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" mostly smacks of general Islamophobia -- just with a more prominent address.
Newt Gingrich may be right that building any Islamic structure that close to Ground Zero is bad idea, at least for now. But his arguments for that position are at least as bad as the worst ones which favor its construction.