ISLAM & MUSLIMS
Islam and Muslims are two completely distinct entities, often incorrectly assumed to be one.
Islam is the perfect religion bestowed upon us from the Creator of all creations Himself. There is absolutely no room for error whatsoever in the essence and teachings of Islam, as they are the direct, preserved word of Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and embodied in the Holy Qu'ran. If adhered to correctly, Islam would bring nothing other than peace, justice, freedom, empowerment, equality, stability, happiness, success, peace of mind, love, kindness, charity, clarity and true value to this world. Not to mention, it would guarantee the attainment of the ultimate reward in the hereafter, paradise. There is no room for discrimination and inequality in Islam, whether it be between men and women, light-skinned and dark-skinned, rich and poor, able and disabled, young and old, or otherwise.
Muslims, on the other hand, are people who believe in and adhere to Islam. What that entails is the complete submission to Allah and the belief that there is only one Creator and that He has no offspring nor is He one himself. One has to also believe in, love and live up to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as well as all the preceding prophets, messengers and their books that were sent to us as guidance from Allah. The belief in angels, amongst other creations that we cannot see with the naked eye, is an integral part of the Islamic faith as well. Finally, one has to believe in predestination and The Day of Judgement, as well as paradise and hell, in order to be Muslim.
Just like every other human being, Muslims are not immune to fault. Islam grants us free will while clearly setting the guidelines that we are to adhere to. Whether or not we choose to adhere to those guidelines is another matter. Since we make our own choices, each and every one of us is responsible for the outcome of their own actions. Unfortunately, sometimes Muslims act in an un-Islamic way while attributing their actions, whether out of misinformation or otherwise, to Islam. This has had a detrimental effect on the image of Islam across the world and the media propagating that misrepresented image has not helped rectify it. However, since the majority of people seek the truth on their own and try to educate themselves about Islam, al hamdulillah, Islam remains to be the fastest growing religion in the world with around 1.6 billion believers. That's approximately 24% of the Earth's population!
Islam wasn't sent to the perfect people, but rather, Islam was sent to perfect the people. Thus, there are Muslims who possess undesirable characteristics but that should not be confused with Islam itself. A true believer would demonstrate Islam to others through their character, actions and principals rather than just uttering the words and identifying themselves as one.