Senior Muslims in traditional religious dress gathered early in sunlit Centenary Square, Bradford, today for a peaceful protest against the American-made film about the Prophet Muhammed.

As they sat ringing the paved area, police kept a low profile as uniformed officers mixed and chatted with community leaders.

But by 3.30pm the tables and chairs outside bars and restaurants in the area were discreetly moved inside as the number of protesters began to swell.

Organisers, the Council for Mosques, expected thousands but half-an-hour into the rally the crowd was still only in its hundreds.

It opened with a recitation from the Holy Koran and before speeches began there was an impassioned appeal to everyone to keep calm.

The speaker emphasised the protest was not about creating chaos.

"It’s not about creating trouble," he said.

"It’s about registering our hurtful feelings that we all feel and that our beloved, beloved Prophet has been insulted in a disgraceful manner.

"We are here to show that we are not the troublemakers, we are the peace makers."