Terrorism? you won't find it here

RADICALISED, weapon-toting potential terrorists plotting evil deeds. The three Asian men sitting in the hushed library at Edinburgh's Central Mosque huddle at a table, speaking quietly, one passes the other a sophisticated mobile phone and waits for news.

This is the Islamic prayer house where, according to recent reports at least, "hate-filled", radical literature was found. That came just days before MI5 boss Jonathan Evans sent a chilling warning of young Muslims being methodically groomed by extremists, of teenagers being radicalised and indoctrinated and of children being implicated in terrorist-related activity: could places like the Potterow mosque really be at the heart of a new national security threat?

Umar Malik, a bearded 20-year-old, nods and smiles. "Yes!" he exclaims, then grins broadly as he looks up from the internet-connected mobile. Pakistan, it turns out, are well on the way to victory over India in their second, one-day cricket international. And that, it seems, is about as controversial and dramatic as events get within the towering walls of the city's biggest mosque.

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Sohaib Saeed, a 23-year-old Edinburgh University philosophy graduate, strokes his chin and casts an eye over shelves packed with books. "I'd better just check there's no radical or extreme literature here," he declares.

Jokes aside, there's a definite weariness in his voice as he explains away an allegation from a London-based newspaper that he says has no substance.

So-called "extreme literature" - allegedly a pamphlet discussing brutal punishment for those who dare to reject their Islamic faith - is said to have been openly distributed for free within the Islamic Centre of Edinburgh attached to the King Fahd Mosque.

It's fair to say the news, which emerged during the recent controversial state visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, did not go down well with the mosque's hierarchy leading up to their Open Doors week - when they actively encourage visitors of all faiths over the threshold - and the city-wide Inter-Faith week. It jarred dramatically with the mosque's image - a 4 million landmark building paid for largely by Saudi donations, opened in 1998, modern in both construction and outlook, one of few mosques in the country to actively encourage curious non-Muslims to enter in a bid to break down misconceptions.

Suggestions that the mosque might be harbouring a radical and extreme element have exasperated Sohaib - one of the organisers of the August Islam Festival Edinburgh. But can he give a guarantee that it doesn't exist?

"I'm sure any religious person has views someone else might not like. But I'm not going to engage in that kind of analysis.

"As for anything that incites illegality, I can say categorically that we don't have things that are illegal here. And if we were to find things that were illegal, then we would remove them.

"If some people have a view . . . well, we are not the thought police, we don't know what everyone thinks," he sighs. "And there are thousands of people who come and use the mosque.

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"The only things that represent what the mosque is about are the sermons on a Friday, the lessons done through circles and talks, information we distribute to the people and the exhibition of our faith we share with visitors.

"What matters is that we work to promote better understanding of Islam."

A stream of visitors pours from the education room where an exhibition explaining the faith is open all year round. They have already visited the plain, white-walled, cavernous prayer room with its striking green and gold 35,000 carpet and sparkling chandeliers - a room large enough to accommodate nearly 1000 worshipers for Friday prayers. Even it is not large enough - there is a second prayer room, smaller with capacity for 500 more, nearby.

Sohaib insists that he has not encountered a radical element within its walls - although he has experienced plenty of racist abuse from strangers outside - and certainly not while he's busy organising inter-faith week meetings with Church of Scotland ministers and representatives from the Jewish community.

"People might imagine there's some kind of animosity between people of different religions but it doesn't exist here at all," he says.

• The Central Mosque Open Doors Week: 2pm to 6pm daily between November 17-25.

'I'm definitely treated with less respect than I was before I converted'

SHE was born in Penicuik, raised by Scots parents and a regular at her local Church of Scotland.

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Today, however, 25-year-old Kimberly McCrindle is Tasnim Salih, her clothes are typically those of a Muslim woman - even down to the hijab, the trailing scarf she wears wrapped around her head and shoulders and the long flowing skirts that skim her ankles.

A trained opera singer with a passion to act and appear on stage, she traded it for Islam eight years ago and now lives with her Sudanese husband and three children in Niddrie.

When she swapped religions, she also quickly became a target for 'racial' abuse. "The worst thing is when you're on the bus," she explains. "People will sit behind me and talk about me. They'll be saying 'Look at the state of her' and start talking about terrorists.

"Then I turn around and they see I'm just like them and they are usually gobsmacked.

"I'm definitely treated differently - with less respect than before I converted."

She was a regular at church in Penicuik, but constantly questioned its teachings when she became friends with a group of Pakistani girls.

"I started to read about Islam," she remembers. "The moment I walked into the Mosque I felt at peace.

"It was a major decision for me to convert and my parents were not happy about it and I can understand why - it was something so different. When I married Sabir, we had a ceremony at the Mosque and my parents didn't come."

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The couple had met at Stevenson College, by which time she had already taken the shahadah testimony of faith at the Central Mosque. Eventually her parents accepted her decision, and joined the couple at a civil wedding ceremony.

Today, she has three young children, daughters Rayyan, four and Tibyan, aged three, and eight-months-old son, Abdul-Majeed.

Her dream of becoming an opera diva have been replaced with regular trips to the theatre instead. Now she looks after the family home while her husband works in a local kebab shop but she hopes eventually to go to college to train as a midwife.

As for acts of terror, extreme literature and radical teaching, Kimberly says she is no more likely to encounter them in her life than anyone else.

"All I know is that after the terror attacks in New York and later in London, I didn't leave the house. I knew I'd attract attention and it wasn't worth it. People have this impression of what being a Muslim is about but they're wrong. Islam is about peace."

When it comes to the so-called cricket test, Umar always cheers for Scotland

YOUNG, Muslim and living in Britain. In a period of terror alerts, tension and suspicion, what is it really like?

At 20 years old, UMAR MALIK could - according to the chief of MI5 - be a prime candidate for the terrorist recruitment agents. Like his friend Sohaib Saeed, however, the law student regards himself as Pakistani Scottish - if he had to take the so-called "cricket test" it would be Scotland he'd end up cheering for. "I always support the underdog," he grins.

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Born and raised in Edinburgh, his grandfather came to the UK in the 1950s from Pakistan. These days, life revolves around studies - he travels to university in Dundee - and the mosque.

And while many Scottish lads may spend their time trawling the city's bars, Muslim laws means Umar and his friends do not drink - even if alcohol is still an issue for them. For drink fuelled racist rants from strangers are a way of life.

"I was coming out of the Mosque wearing traditional Pakistani clothes and a guy was standing outside the pub, pint in his hand, and he made some pretty nasty comments. But I've had that since school. I ignore it. I was on the train the other day, this girl became really abusive. Things like that happen to us all."

MOHAMMED ALI, 22, is a third-year medical student at Edinburgh University, originally from Athens.

Like Umar, he has found himself on the receiving end of abuse. "There have been a few incidents in the street, but not that serious and you don't react. Last time was when I was at a bus stop and a drunk man came up and started saying things like: 'Why don't you just go back to Africa?' He was rather confused I think."

The abusive diatribes often go unchecked by people too wary to get involved. "This time though, after he had walked away, two other people at the bus stop started to apologise on his behalf even though they didn't have anything to do with it.

"It was encouraging for me that at least they weren't going to let it just happen."

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