MUSLIM leaders are calling for calm as Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, begins just days after the Manchester terrorist attack.

The religious festival starts tonight, Friday May 26, and will see Muslims fast off food, drink cigarettes and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset.

It comes after the Met increased its policing operations in the capital ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister raised the threat level from severe to critical. Soldiers were sent to protect key sites and public events.

Yusuf Hansa of Noor Ul Islam Mosque in Leyton High Road said: “It is good for us to have the army and the police on the street.

“I would say to people there’s nothing to be afraid of because they are there to keep the public safe.

“It’s a sad, sad time. We will say a special prayer for the victims of the Manchester attack and their families today.

“Our message to Muslims and non-Muslims alike is to accept the law. We are telling people to be vigilant when they go out onto the streets after prayers because during Ramadan they will be finishing quite late.”

Ramadan will run until Saturday June 24.

Every evening Muslims will gather for prayers and a meal, known as iftar.

Mubashir Ahmad Saddiqi of Baitul Ahad Mosque in Erskine Road, Walthamstow, said his community are making efforts to reach out to non-Muslims at this difficult time.

Mr Saddiqi, who is a member of the Ahmadiyya community, a minority sect of Islam, said: “We are calling for peace. Obviously there’s some extremist element within our community but not the majority.

“We’re trying to spread our message which is love for all and hatred for none.

“We’re making sure we’re doing our level best to integrate into our community by holding dialogues with others. We have open doors and we invite people to come in.

“We will have a minute’s silence at our Friday prayers to remember the victims of the tragic incident in Manchester. It’s horrific really.”

Suleman Ahmed, chairman of the Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) society in Waltham Forest said he is confident relations between different faiths in the borough will not be damaged by the events in Manchester.

Mr Ahmed, who is a member of the congregation at Leytonstone Mosque in Dacre Road, Leytonstone, said: “We need to be careful but we shouldn’t have to change the way that we live especially when it comes to performing various rituals during Ramadan.

“The security threat is the same for everybody, Muslim and non-Muslim, black and white. In times like this we need to come together.

“Obviously we are worried that we have some people in society that are twisted and go to some extreme lengths to make points.

“I would say to people to trust in their relationships which they have built up with their neighbours. We are confident and know that all of a sudden the community that we live in will not turn on us.”

Waltham Forest has the fifth largest Muslim population in England and the third largest in London. Almost a quarter of residents identify as Muslim.