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Hearing criticisms of your own convictions and learning the beliefs of others are training for life in a multifaith society.

Preventing open debate means that all believers, including atheists, remain in the prison of unconsidered opinion.

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Surely such things can’t happen in the land of the First Amendment? In recent years, their attacks on free expression in the U. have generally been prompted by a philistine discomfort with provocative art, from the “Sensation” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 to the more recent flap over “The Death of Klinghoffer” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Not in quite the same way, perhaps, but a libel suit brought by the climatologist Michael Mann against the opinion writer Mark Steyn, National Review magazine (with which I am affiliated) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for their criticism of his temperature projections still poses a chilling threat to free speech and scientific debate. In Britain, the sitting Tory home secretary, Theresa May, long resisted efforts to reform a catchall law regulating speech that the police have enforced with extraordinary zeal and no sense of proportion.

Fear, cowardice and rationalization spread outward. Twenty-five years later, we can look back on a long series of similar events, including: the 2002 anti-Christian riots in Nigeria, in which more than 200 people were killed because a local tabloid had facetiously suggested that Miss World contestants would make suitable brides for Muhammad; the 2004 murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh for his movie “Submission,” in which passages from the Quran were printed on women’s bodies; the riots in Denmark and throughout the Middle East in 2005 in response to the publication of cartoons of Muhammad by a Danish magazine; the murder threats against Dutch politician Geert Wilders for his 2008 film “Fitna,” which interleaved passages from the Quran with clips of jihadist violence.

Muslim worshippers in Baghdad, Iraq, denounce Denmark after a Danish magazine ran cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on Feb. Associated Press These events were threats to free speech, however, not only in themselves but also because they intimidated people and private organizations and gave governments an excuse to restrict free media.

Before the 1960s, arguments for censorship tended to focus on sexual morality, pornography and obscenity.