Claiming Muhammad or Islam is peaceful is like claiming a toddler has won the Tour de France. No spectator or sports enthusiast would ever take seriously a toddler racing a bike. But, they'd have to take seriously a well-invested and trained adult, especially if the race tore through their town.
Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and ISIS are not extremists. The Harvard Chaplain who claims death and the Ground Zero Imam who claims imprisonment for those who leave Islam are not isolated extremists. They are following Muhammad's instructions, living in the stage of Islam applicable to their socio-political environment.
Islam, like an athlete's development, exists in stages. To understand this, one must first understand key Islamic texts.
Muhammad, the self-proclaimed prophet of Islam, wrote the Qur'an, which is the primary source of Islamic law. Records of Muhammad's traditions and sayings were compiled into canonical Hadith. The Sunnah, a system of obligations derived from Hadith, provides the basis for law and moral guidance, second to the Qur'an. Finally, Ibn Ishaq wrote the earliest and most comprehensive and widely respected biography about Muhammad, Sira of Ibn Ishaq. These texts provide ample evidence that Muhammad and his followers were violent.
In order to understand the Qur'an, one must first know how to read it. Its chapters were not written in chronological order or categorized by topic. The longer chapters towards the front were written earlier in Muhammad's life when he was living as a minority in a society when he first introduced Islam to people who had never heard of Allah.
These passages represent the "sacred" first stage of Islamizing a society. They specifically apply to Muslims who emigrate and live as a minority in a new country. They can't rock the boat in a culture that tolerates Islam but doesn't necessarily embrace or reject it. Generations later, Muslims gentrify neighborhoods legally as citizens but view this society as foreign.
The shorter chapters located towards the back of the Qur'an represent the next stage of Islam. They specifically apply to Muslims who have become or are becoming a majority group in a neighborhood or city, and eventually a country. These passages supersede the earlier ones, mandating the creation of a totalitarian political system ruled by Shar'ia law.
Like a competitive athlete, one's determination hasn't changed, but engagement with spectators or fans have. Muslim scholars believe chapter 9 of the Qur'an is the final or nearly final chapter Muhammad wrote. In 9:5, he orders his followers to "slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive)…" Known as "the verse of the sword," 9:5 instructs Muslims to proactively fight those who reject Islam.
Winning the Tour de France is similar to living in the final stage of Islam. In 9:29, Muhammad proclaims:
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger [Muhammad] have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth [Islam], out of those who have been give the Book [the Bible, given to Christian and Jews], until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of [Muslim] superiority and they [Christians and Jews] are in a state of subjection [dhimmitude, i.e. third-class legal status for non-Muslims].
Muhammad claimed he was, "ordered [by Allah] to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped other than Allah…" and "to fight with them until they bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger…" (Sahih al-Bukhar Volume 1, Book 2, Number 25; Sahih Muslim Book 031, Number 5917).
Ishaq writes that Muhammad warned, "if you do not follow him [Allah] you will be slaughtered, and when you are raised from the dead you will be burned in the fire of hell" (English transl. p. 222). (Sunan Abu-Dawud Book 38, Number 4348; Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57).
Muslims who claim Islam is peaceful are following taqqiya, Qur'an-instructed deceit, or not following the Qur'an at all. As Abu Ad-Darda, Muhammad's companion explained, "we can smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them."
Muhammad practiced what he preached. Ishaq describes his order to torture and behead Kinana b. al-Rabi'. Muhammad then took Kinana's wife Safiya and consummated his marriage to her within 24 hours of killing her father and husband (English transl. p. 511-517).
The Hadith tells of Muhammad's soldiers who raped "some excellent Arab women" because they "were suffering from the absence of [their] wives." Muhammad told them it didn't matter if they practiced 'azl because "every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born" (Sahih Muslim Book 008, Number 3371).
And in his fifties, Muhammad added to his many wives by marrying six-year old Aisha, with whom he consummated his marriage three years later. (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 7, Book 62, Number 64, 65, 88; Volume 5, Book 58, Number 236).
As Islam expands, ways in which Muslims dutifully follow Muhammad's teachings become known. Practices like honor killings, child marriage and institutionalized domestic violence are introduced into Western societies and continue to escalate. Islamic Shari'a Councils now exist in England, Holland, and others, applying Shari'a via a de facto paralegal system.
In near Islamic states, those who reject or leave Islam are "liable to be killed," beaten, stomped on, stabbed, burned, imprisoned, and killed. In fact, the majority of Muslims surveyed in a 2010 Pew Research poll support the death penalty in their country for those who leave Islam.
Yet, 2014 and 2010 simply mirror Islamic stages from nearly 1,000 years ago.
Alexandria Egypt, Antioch Greece, and Constantinople Turkey were once thriving meccas of Christian learning that produced leaders in academia, theology, and the arts. Famous Christian poets lived throughout Syria. Jerusalem, Gaza, Caesarea, and Beirut were all prominent Christian centers. Christians lived peacefully in Ethiopia, Yemen, and Persia (Iraq and Iran). And perhaps one of the greatest minds to ever influence Western Christian and philosophical thought was Augustine of Hippo, an Algerian.
Yet, within half a millennia Christians in this entire region were but a remnant. Islamic peace was realized because non-Muslims were either converted or killed.