In 1988 Salman Rushdie published "The Satanic Verses" — a novel, which caused fatwas to be issued calling on the faithful to kill the author for offending Islam:
"I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death."
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 1989
British government, of which Salman is a subject, responded with special police protection for the author and never thought of blaming him for the increased danger to himself, nor for the additional troubles with the Muslim world. Public opinion was rather supportive of Mr. Rushdie's right to Free Speech.
In 2005 Dutch and other European publications published (and then republished) cartoons depicting Mohammed — a grave offense against Islamic teaching, which forbids ANY depictions of people, much less unflattering depictions of the holy Prophet. Although American newspapers are already cautious not to reprint the pictures, the Western public opinion remains supportive of the artist's right to express himself.
In 2010 Terry Jones plans a similar offense to Islam. American government, of which Terry is a subject, is already criticizing his plans as "endangering our troops" and, if any government actions take place at all, it is an FBI's harassment and the fire department's threat to stop the burning under some bogus reason. Public opinion is criticizing Terry for "bigotry" and "intolerance" (favorite "catch-all" accusations of the Left) as well as "unnecessary provocation" (Sarah Palin).
Granted, Rushdie's book was a work of art (a fine novel, though hardly Earth-shattering), while Jones' act is simply a powerful expression of disapproval of Islam itself. But both cases are first and foremost about one's Freedom of Speech in a free society.
Anyone else is frightened by how willing we are to abandon the Freedom of (Offensive) Speech for fear of violent reprisals? And of how willing we are to blame the speaker for the violence of the expected backlash? Is it not bigoted of us to expect Muslims to react (significantly) worse, than the Christians reacted to the infamous Crucifix in Urine, for example?
One does not need to agree with Reverend Jones, but what happened to the Voltaire's principle:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?