The xenophobic reactionaries were out in force at last night's community board hearing on the controversial mosque proposed for Ground Zero. The arguments against the mosque boiled down to the simple equation of Islam=terrorism, which is about as reductive as saying Catholicism=child molestation, but there's no reasoning with these people—especially when some of them can legitimately play the 9/11 card. Retired FDNY Deputy Chief Al Santora, whose 23-year-old son Christopher was the youngest firefighter to die that day, told the board, "I do have a problem with having a mosque on top of the site where [terrorists] can gloat about what they did."

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Initiative, which is in charge of the project, told the crowd he hoped the mosque/cultural center would "bridge the great divide" between Muslims and the rest of America. "We are Americans, we are Muslim Americans," Rauf declared. "Many of us were born in the United States. We have no higher aspirations that to bring up our children in peace and harmony in this country. Freedom of assembly is the right of all Americans." Then the booing started, and one woman shouted, "Not at the World Trade Center!"

Another mosque opponent (we're guessing it's our friend here in the olive green wife beater) predicted, "This house of evil will be the birthplace of the next terrorist event." Because what better place to dabble in terrorist event-planning than at the most high-profile mosque this side of Mecca? In the end, the board gave the mosque its approval in a 29-1 vote. Before the vote, sixth-grader Jahanara Nares, a student at the United Nations International School, won applause with her statement, "I think it's kind of strange people are against the mosque just because a few Muslims were part of the attacks."

But firefighter Jim McCaffrey said everyone should follow the money: "I don't think the local Muslim community in lower Manhattan could afford it, which leads one to believe that there will be outside sources. Who, and where, are those outside sources from?" Actually, the Cordoba Initiative would probably also love to know where they're going to get the money—they're currently way short of the $100 million needed, and donors may be scared off by all the pitchforks and torches.