Prominent Muslim groups in the U.S. pronounced sweeping condemnations of the deadly attack on a French satirical newspaper that has a history of publishing unflattering depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslim community leaders summarily distanced themselves from the gunmen’s' actions, and agreed that speech that mocks faiths and religious figures cannot justify killing innocent people.

"The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions," Nihad Awad, director of Council on American–Islamic Relations, said.

"We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech," he said.

Three masked gunmen armed with AK-47s stormed the Paris headquarters of the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people including celebrated cartoonists as well as two policemen.

Widespread condemnation and demand for punishment of perpetrators poured in, from world leaders and ordinary people as they held vigils and demonstrations across the world.

The magazine had sparked controversy in 2006 and 2012 for publishing comic cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, and its offices were also targeted three years ago after it named the Prophet as its “editor-in-chief."

However, Muslims in the U.S. banded together to reiterate the verse in the Quran that tells Muslims: if anyone kills an innocent person, it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people.

“The tragic irony that these criminals displayed is that if they actually gave a cursory look over the Prophet Muhammad’s life, they’d see how he reacted to insults and degrading treatment,” Haris Tarin, director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said.

“The Prophet always responded with mercy and forgiveness. No matter what grievances individuals or communities might have, violence is never the answer," he said.

Islamic literature and the Quran hold that, during his lifetime in the early 6th century, the Prophet Muhammad faced continuous insults, persecution and assassination attempts by his opponents. He reacted to these personal attacks without retaliation of any sort, even after he led a persecuted minority movement to become a dominant social and political force in Arabia.

“Nothing justifies this barbaric and inhumane attack,” said Nasim Rehmatullah, vice president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of the U.S.

“Islam and the Prophet Muhammad teach that life is sacrosanct, and Islam specifically forbids any worldly punishment for blasphemy. The culprits behind this atrocity have violated every Islamic tenet of compassion, justice, and peace," he said.

Edgar Hopida from Islamic Society of North America also said that nothing can justify killing innocent people in Islamic thought.

"We hope that law enforcement agencies apprehend the perpetrators, and that they are brought to justice for their crimes," he told The Anadolu Agency.

Anadolu Agency