In their own words

Doaa Al-Rani (19) took a leading role in the protests. Though not an MAB member, she led the chanting, rallying a group of women around her

Why are you here today?

Banning the hijab is a blatant breach of our human rights. Everybody in the world should be allowed to wear what they like. Especially a civilised country should be able to accept differences. Where is our freedom of choice? I do not ask of them to ban miniskirts, so why can I not wear what I chose? Many people see the hijab of a symbol of women's oppression, a sign that she is worth less than a man.

The hijab for me is not just a symbol: it is an obligation. It is not a sign of women's oppression: it is a sign of liberation. It is my choice to wear it. My whole family wears it, but we have all decided to do so through our own free will. What if your little sister decided not to wear the hijab? I would see to it that she is convinced to want to wear the scarf. I am sure she would do it in the end. Of course I cannot force her in that sense, but I would try everything to persuade her.

Saema Javaid (24) was with a group of women, some not wearing the scarf. They all pushed her forward to speak. She is also not a member of the MAB

The French government says it wants to defend secularism

This ban is of course not just against islam, but against all other religions, and political symbols as well. It is not really about secularism in my opinion, because the state is not staying out of the issue of religion. It is telling people they cannot wear certain symbols that are based on beliefs, be they religious or political. That is not secularism. I think it is a tactic to divide the people of France. I am in favour of a real secular state, where the government does not tell people what to think or what not to think.

What does the hijab mean to you?

It shows my identity as a muslim person. I have worn it since I chose to do so 10 years ago. Nobody else in my family wears it, because none of them is religious. They do relate to islam as a religion, as our foundation in life, but they do not feel it as strongly as I do. And my family simply accepts that I wear this symbol.