France's Muslim girls say #HandsOffMyHijab

Muslim girls across France are battling a potential headscarf ban for minors, taking to social media with the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab.

The conservative-dominated French Senate has voted to outlaw the hijab for under 18's in public, adding the amendment to President Emmanuel Macron's anti-separatism bill - designed to strengthen France's secular values.

16 year-old Mariem Chourak is a devout Muslim and sees the bill as a violation of her religious belief.

"When I found out that the Senate had voted that bill, I realised that it was possible for it to officially become the law and that, overnight, I could be forbidden from wearing my hijab in public spaces. It shocked me but it also scared me because I figured I would have to wait to be 18 to have access to my (religious) freedom.

The amendment pertains to all religious symbols, though opponents say it targets Muslims.

22-year-old Hiba Latreche is one of the young activists who launched the protest campaign.

"I have had to, for instance, remove, for 10 years, my headscarf every single day, in front of my school yard, which personally was very difficult and affected greatly my mental health but also my student experience and performance. But then, it didn't stop there. It continued later on in university, where when I was choosing my career path, I constantly was kind of self-censoring myself. Would I be able to wear my hijab? Would I be allowed? Could I become a judge or could I become this or that? So it came to this point where this, you know, institutionalised islamophobia completely shaped and paved my own way of thinking."

The wearing of religious symbols in public has long-been a controversial issue in France, a staunchly secular country and home to Europe's largest Muslim minority.

France prohibited the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state schools in 2004.

In 2010, it banned the niqab, the full-face Islamic veil, in public places.

Senator Christian Bilhac told lawmakers in April this amendment would protect youngsters.

"In what measure can a secular republic tolerate that children display religious signs in broad daylight? Parents should not impose dogmas on children and it is thus essential for safe spaces to exist for them and allow for their emancipation."

The amendments need to be debated and may yet be scratched from the bill.

But for many of the young activists like Latreche the damage is already done.