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Under the new British law, an evangelical Christian also was fined for holding up a sign that read “Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism.” But he was lucky.

Almost no newspapers published the Muhammad cartoons, for instance, though the story of them dominated the international media for weeks.

Dutch legal authorities tried repeatedly, if unsuccessfully, to prosecute Mr. If you denounce a belief as absurd, you are implicitly criticizing the believers as credulous fools.

Christians have to endure explicit denunciations of their faith all the time from such writers as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t listen to hellfire sermons from atheists.

Today, hurtful speech is more likely to be political speech than obscene speech. I recall, alas, making a very poor joke about literary deconstructionism. The literary, media and political worlds rallied in defense of Mr. He became a hero of free speech and a symbol—even if a slightly ambivalent postcolonial one—of Western liberal traditions.