Once people acknowledge that there is no possible reason to deny one of the two Mosques near ground zero the right to build a community center with a prayer room, the next step is to try to find something wrong with Faisal Rauf, the sufi teacher who is organizing the project. Ross Douhat claims that he endorsed the Iranian regime, and won't denounce Hamas.
I checked Douhat's link to Rauf's supposed endorsement of the Iranian Regime, and both Douhat and blogger Michael Weiss misinterpreted Rauf's statement. Here's the conclusion of the section Weiss Quoted:
Now, on the streets of Teheran and undoubtedly in high political circles behind the scenes, Iranians are asking themselves, has this election confirmed the legitimacy of the ruler? President Obama has rightly said that his administration will not interfere with the internal affairs of Iran, unlike what happened in 1953. Now he has an opportunity to have a greater positive impact on Iranian-American relations.
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.
Anyone who was not reading this with a pathologically prejudiced eye would see that this is a criticism of the Iranian government, not an endorsement. What Rauf is advising is that Obama express his criticism of the Iranian Government by saying this: the poll fraud of the last Iranian election does not live up to the ideals that the Iranian Government claims to stand for. Rauf is surely correct in saying that this would be a more effective strategy than demanding that Iran adopt the American Bill of Rights. Rauf is arguing that the principles of just government and rule of law are an essential part of Islam's value sytem. This is certainly true. It is the reason that the U.S. Supreme Court building has a carving of Muhammad along with Moses and Hammurabi in a frieze honoring the great lawmakers of history. This is also by far the most persuasive way of persuading Muslims who are sitting on the fence between moderation and extremism.
As for Rauf's refusal to condemn Hamas: I feel that both Israel and Hamas are treating each other abominably. I disagree with both the softpedaling of Israel's atrocities by many Americans and the soft pedaling of Hamas' atrocities by many Muslims. But none of us has to agree on these issues to be recognized as legitimate members of the American Community. Catholics don't have to denounce papal infallibility, or accept Dawkins' demand that the pope be arrested as an accessory to pedophilia, in order to build their Churches anywhere they want, and that's exactly the way it should be. Violent destruction of property, whether by Bin Laden or McVeigh, is a crime and anyone who commits such crimes or irresponsibly advocates them should pay the appropriate penalty. But it would be a dark day for America if mere differences of opinion about foreign policy could be used to deny anyone's right to build a community center on their own land, in an area that already has several other houses of worship (including two Mosques).