"Islam" means surrender. It is a religion whose adherents (called "Muslims," meaning those who have totally surrendered) believe in God (called Allah in Arabic). It is a religion that is much misunderstood in the West.
As with any religion, Islam has fundamentalist adherents whose actions are totally inconsistent with the faith itself. Like KKK members who professed to be Christians but lynched African Americans, or "pro-lifers" who themselves kill at abortion clinics, religious fundamentalists who claim their faith justifies their actions are still just terrorists. Over time, unfortunately, their violence causes non-practitioners to misunderstand the faith itself - and to fear it.
Actions of fanatical Muslims, both recently and historically, have contributed to a fear of Islam among non-Muslims:
Yet, when one examines the written source of the Muslim religion (the Koran) and the man who gave his people their book of faith (Muhammad), we see a completely different picture. And that picture raises other questions:
Muhammad, who lived from 570 to 632, never claimed to be divine, and Muslims do not think of him in that sense. (You will need RealAudio for this BBC link.) But Muhammad DID claim to be a prophet of God, and the Islamic faith contends he was the last of all the prophets sent by God.
For those who have not studied him, who was Muhammad? And what was his contribution to the faith practiced by so many of the world's population?