Two white men allegedly forced a young Muslim woman to the ground in a shopping area in east London and dragged her by her headscarf, or hijab. Police are reportedly investigating the case and are treating it as a racist attack.

The incident took place in Chingford, where the 27-year-old victim was visiting a friend at a hair salon. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said the incident took place after 8.30pm local time on Wednesday (14 December).

The woman reportedly told police that two men approached her from behind and tried to take her hijab off. In the process they pushed her to the ground and dragged her over some distance.

The Evening Standard quoted eye witnesses as saying that the woman was lying on the pavement for almost 20 minutes before she managed to get to a nearby restaurant to dial 999. She was then attended to by paramedics and was later taken to the hospital.

A waiter at the Fes restaurant, where she went to seek help, told the tabloid: "The poor girl was shaking like a leaf, we had to sit her down and give her water before she could speak.

"She told us two white guys shoved her then dragged her along the floor by her headscarf and left her on the pavement. She was having a panic attack when we saw her and could barely breathe. It's sickening that people can do this," the person said.

Another eye witness at the Turkish eatery, Hussan Bukhari, said that the woman was "absolutely terrified and in tears".

"She had back surgery last month and was really worried it was damaged again as she couldn't walk by herself. She said 'They took nothing from me, not my phone, not my bag. They just thought they could get away with it. I thought this area was safe.'

"As a Muslim myself, that could have been my mother or sister who was carried in so I felt really protective of her," the man said.

The Guardian reported that police said the two white males were aged 17 to 19. They reportedly ran off north along Old Church Road following the incident.

The Metropolitan police said in a statement that no arrests have been made so far. "Officers from Waltham Forest CID are investigating," the statement read.