“Our Prophet (peace be upon him) suffered at the hands of the polytheists merely for preaching the religion of Allah to the poor and marginalized”
According to Muslim historians, the Meccans were actually quite tolerant of Muhammad preaching his new religion. Mecca was an open society where different religions were respected. Polytheists, Jews and Christians lived and worshipped side-by-side, especially during the holy months, when pagan pilgrims would travel long distances from beyond the city to perform their rituals at the Kaaba.
Muhammad brought on the resentment of the local people not by preaching Islam, but by breaking with Meccan tradition and cursing other religions:
Although asked to stop, Muhammad continued to stir up trouble by “condemning” the local religion, causing the Meccans great anxiety:
Not only was this an insult to the people and their traditions, but it also threatened the local economy, which depended on the annual pilgrimage. Still, they were so eager to live at peace, that they offered Muhammad money if he would stop stirring up trouble:
Further proof that the Meccans did not have a problem with Islam existing side-by-side with their own religion is found in the episode known as the Satanic Verses. According to Muslim historians, Muhammad briefly agreed to their demand to cease disparaging the local gods and recognize the rights of others to their religion:
The Meccans were clearly relieved that the unprecedented tension over religious beliefs was broken. They rejoiced by praying alongside the Muslims at the Kaaba. They accepted the Muslims once Muhammad accepted them.
Unfortunately the period of peace and brotherhood was short-lived. Muhammad soon reneged on his words after his own people began to question the contradiction between his previous claims and his new-found tolerance for other faiths. This incident, particularly his about-face, had the effect of ratcheting up the tension and hostility all the more.