Four hundred people of various faiths gathered at Aotea Square yesterday in a show of solidarity after recent attacks on six Auckland mosques.

But the spectre of the London bombings was never far from the thoughts of the various speakers, who represented Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

A group of 30 had earlier marched from the Ponsonby Mosque, one of the targets of the attacks.

Palestinian exile Rana Sobh spoke about the need for understanding and tolerance. After September 11, she witnessed Muslim women wearing hijabs being insulted in supermarkets, and her husband was verbally abused on the street, purely because he looked Middle Eastern.

But it was her then 8-year-old son who felt the prejudice the most. He had come home from school one day upset after hearing that Palestine could have been responsible for the attacks.

"I could never, ever forget the look on his face," said Mrs Sobh.

Yesterday's turnout was a sign things were changing for the better for her children.

"I want them to be raised as proud New Zealanders, proud to be part of this country."

Anjum Rahman, from the Islamic Women's Council, spoke of the insecurity in the Muslim community, particularly among women. She said the mosque attacks were politically motivated.

"There is a need for all of us here to enter into a jihad of our own. Anyone who understands Islam knows that a jihad is not war, but a struggle.

"The jihad that I'm asking you to take up is against these acts that rip apart our society and create dissent, just for the sake of political gain.

"We are all mainstream New Zealanders, regardless of our religion or race."

Rabbi Michael Weisser, from Auckland's Beth Shalom Synagogue, urged people to reach out to someone from a different faith to break down prejudices and ignorance.

"Every single community has its share of people who do bad things. We shouldn't taint groups of people with one label."

One of the organisers, Bruce Keeley, from the Council of Christians and Muslims, said the turnout showed many New Zealanders cherished the importance of openness and acceptance.

"It's a very precious gift we have, which we could easily lose if prejudice and ignorance were to gain the upper hand."

"What we can take heart from today is that there are a lot of people out there who don't want this precious gift lost."

During the rally, police spoke to two people claiming to be "anarchists". They said they supported the rally, and had been there to "make it safe from the Nazis" who had been trying to organise a counter-rally.

* Auckland Muslim students have hit back at claims that Islamic terror groups have supporters at Auckland University, calling the accusation unfounded.

Shahin Soltanian, former president of the Auckland University Islamic Society (AUIS), said there were followers at the university of Muslim groups who condoned the killing of infidels, both non-Muslim and Shia Muslims.

But the present society president, Ryan Mahmoud, said the group had "absolutely no extremists".

He said he had spoken to the community and "all the answers I got were that he doesn't know what he's talking about".