Defamation versus Critique
Most of the inhabitants of the West are non-Muslims. Many of them are not Muslim because they feel that there is something unacceptable in Islam. Hence, it is to be expected that they would have thoughts about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that Muslims would not share. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself debated with Jews, Christians and polytheists who did not believe in him and even after discussions with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself they remained true to their own faiths. Thus, no one, Muslim or otherwise, should be surprised if a non-Muslim has a lesser opinion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) than a Muslim has.

The Quran welcomes discussion and dialogue with the non-Muslims: “Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and debate with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided” (al-Nahl 125). In fact, more than once, the Quran even asks the non-Muslim to, “Produce your proof if you are truthful” (al-Baqarah 111; al-Naml 64; al-Qasas 75).

Thus, the objection is not to non-Muslims—especially in their own lands—expressing their view about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). If what they state is sincere and rational, then they can be spoken to on a rational level with sincerity. Indeed, Muslims welcome such discussions and, in reality, such discussions are best for Islam, because, to this day, most of the people in the West have distorted views of Islam. If they wish to express their views honestly and discuss them honestly, they can be presented with the truth of Islam. This act in itself may reduce the tension and discord that exists between non-Muslims and Muslims. In fact, after the events of 9/11, many Americans took the effort to find out more about Islam and there was much more exposure of Islam and Muslims. Thus, in comparing surveys before 9/11 and after 9/11, Nacos and Torres-Reyna found that “the American public in general viewed Muslim-Americans more favorable after September 11, 2001.”

One can respond to rational arguments with an honest and straightforward rational discussion. However, there is no real response to something that is meant only to ridicule, insult or harm.
In sum, if non-Muslims want to debate and discuss the real issues of religion and belief, Muslims are more than ready to do that. If they resort to defamation and ridicule, then they should not be surprised if they are in turn responded to with hatred and disrespect. There is no need for them to then ask, “Why do they hate us?” The answer should be clear.

Actually, there is one author who makes the point that those in the past who attacked the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did so in an attempt to avoid discussing the real issues.

Minou Reeves writes in a work entitled Muhammad in Europe: A Thousand Years of Western Myth-Making,
The trouble started with early medieval Christian polemicists. They chose not to attack Islamic theology, which was too seductive in its simplicity and clarity, and which raised too many awkward questions about Christian dogma. Nor could they cast doubt on the pious practice of ordinary Muslims. Instead, anticipating the worst excesses of tabloid journalism, they personalized the issue and attacked the Prophet of Islam, dispensing with all but the barest knowledge of any facts and inventing falsehoods. Muslims could not reply in kind, since they are told by the Qur’an to revere Jesus as a holy prophet.

It seems that not much has truly changed over the centuries.