The British National Party and the Scottish Defence League often portray Islam as a separatist Trojan horse inside Britain – a religion of shadowy conspirators plotting to bring the county to its knees.
But Scottish Muslims are now setting out to take a stronger role in civic society, determined to do away with the negative image of Islam that is being pushed by the far-right and challenge the extremist doctrine promoted by zealots such as Omar Bakri or Abu Hamza.
Shaykh Amer Jamil, an Islamic scholar from Glasgow, has promised to wipe out what he sees as dangerous misinterpretations of his religion.
Using arguments taken directly from the Koran, he is demolishing misguided attempts to justify domestic violence, within fringe elements of the Muslim community.
He has also embarked on a project to educate Scottish Muslims about the true meaning of the word “jihad”, which is so often misunderstood.
He is distributing 12,000 pamphlets around Scottish mosques, reminding Muslims that jihad does not just mean holy war, but can mean “personal struggle”. The campaign will continue throughout the year and he will issue further pamphlets on issues such as forced marriage.
He said: “Some people come out and condemn terrorism or domestic violence, but never from a scholarly perspective. I wrote this leaflet so it is readable by anyone. It is not an academic piece that only five people can read. I set out to rebut negative arguments in such a scholastic way that there is no way of arguing against it.”
Mr Jamil was prompted to take his stand after the Glasgow Airport bom attack in 2007. He was studying Islamic Law in the Middle East and was concerned the only voices heard in the mainstream media were zealots who were unrepresentative of Muslim thought.
He added: “I ask: what are the people’s credentials? What makes them a cleric? You cannot ask a person to give medical advice unless they are a doctor, they have been to medical school and have the qualifications. The same should count for religious rulings. They should not be called clerics. They should be called the man off the street.”
He then set out to educate the Muslim community about what the Koran actually says, not what hardliners claim it says.
His effort is part of a wider trend among Muslim communities, as young people take an increasingly proactive stance in the society around them, reconciling their faith with their responsibilities as Scottish, British and European citizens.
For instance, in Edinburgh yesterday, classes were cancelled at the central mosque so women and children could take part in the protests against the Scottish Defence League -- that did not happen during the SDL’s Glasgow protest.
Osama Saeed, of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, one of the organisers of Scotland United, said the increased turnout reflected a “new wave” of Muslims determined to get involved in civic society.
He said: “This is a generational thing, it is a new wave of young people coming forward and articulating faith in a manner that fits with the rest of society and engaging far more.
“I found the Scotland United demonstration in Edinburgh very moving. There were far more Muslims out today, as well as a very diverse range of other people.”
He said Muslim believers were “now coming forward and working on a variety of good causes, including climate change and the fight against poverty”.
However, this is likely to be lost on the extremists of the Scottish Defence League, he warned. “The SDL are out to attack whatever group are at hand. Sadly, the SDL and people like them are not going to listen to Amer Jamil, Aamer Anwar, myself or anyone else.”