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British Hijabis: why they wear the headscarf

Ten-year-old Sanaa practises putting on her headscarf. She wears it on Saturdays for Islamic school.

Sanaa with her sister, right, try on Islamic clothing in the bedroom they share in east London.

Sanaa sometimes likes to wear her headscarf to school.

Dalila, Sanaa's mother, says: “She may start to wear the headscarf every day next year. Sanaa will decide for herself when she's ready to wear it every day."

Brenda, converted from Catholicism to Islam. She has always lived a strictly religious life and thought about becoming a nun before she realised she wanted children.“I know I'm in a non-Muslim country and so I try to respect the rules,” she said. “Sometimes people say nice things about my children or they smile at me and I try to smile back at them. I know they can't see my face but I hope they know I'm smiling with my eyes.”

Hana started wearing her headscarf full-time aged 12. She was already wearing it at school and her family supported her so it was easy for her to make the decision. She said it felt like nothing had changed except her relationship with God.

Ameera, 12, started to wear the headscarf full-time age nine because most of her friends wore one. Her mother would tell her: ‘You don't have to wear it. You're still young!’ but she loves to wear it and has as many as 60 or 70 different scarves.

Youth worker Sumreen Farooq, 18 years old, was racially abused in a London street. "I'm going to stand out whatever I do, so I might as well wear the headscarf," she said.

Madiha, 12, and Afsha, 11, both started to wear the hijab around the age of eight. They wear a headscarf for religious observance, modesty and to protect themselves.

Sundas Ali at her engagement party. She says: "There is a misconception that it is the men telling the women what they should wear. My husband left it up to me as he doesn't practise ritualistic religion. We both have a mixed identity, our religious, ethnic, and national identities are all important to us.”

Sundas, left, with her mother Naheed and sister Shanza. Shanza says the scarf "makes it easier for Muslim women to keep away from things that you don't want to do... If you don't want to go clubbing, drink, or have relations outside marriage, it can help, but it can also just be a reminder to be a good person and treat others well."

Despite a common view that Muslim women face strong social pressure to wear a headscarf, many explain they themselves want to cover up. There are no official numbers on how many women wear a headscarf, though just under five per cent of the UK's 63 million population are Muslim. Anecdotally, more young women now wear a headscarf to assert a Muslim identity they feel is under attack.