Finally, some moral clarity amid the howls. After making a thoughtful distinction between devout, non-Enlightenment-embracing Muslims and terrorist-backing extremists, Douthat goes on:
But making these kind of distinctions doesn’t require us to suspend all judgment where would-be Islamic moderates are concerned. Instead, dialogue needs to coexist with pressure: Figures like Ramadan and now Rauf should be held to a high standard by their non-Muslim interlocutors, and their forays into more dubious territory should be greeted with swift pushback, rather than simply being accepted as a necessary part of the moderate Muslim package. (This is particularly true because Westerners have a long record of seeing what they want to see in self-proclaimed Islamic reformers, from the Ayatollah Khomeini down to Anwar Al Awlaki, and failing to recognize extremism when it’s staring them in the face.) And what’s troubling about some of the liberal reaction to the Cordoba Initiative controversy is that it seems to regard this kind of pressure as illegitimate and dangerous in and of itself — as though the First Amendment protects the right of Rauf and Co. to build their mosque and cultural center, but not the right of critics to scrutinize Rauf’s moderate bona fides, parse some of his more disturbing comments, and raise doubts about the benefits (to American Islam as well as to America) of having him set up shop as an arbiter of Muslim-Western dialogue in what used to be the shadow of the World Trade Center.