Maybe It’s Time For Zayn Malik To Stand Up Against Islamophobia

by Samuel
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Im not a Directioner, but its not like Im averse — One Direction just missed my particular age group.

So, before he left the band, whenever someone mentioned Zayn Malik, my brain would prompt the hot one and thats about as far as my knowledge went.

Ive been learning more about Malik since he left One Direction, thanks in part to profiles from Fader and the latestBillboard. Ive learned his musicality leans R&B, hes into street art and he only smokes Sativa weed because its creative (lol).

And Ive learned his dad is British Pakistani and his mom converted to Islam in marriage, but Malik doesnt particularly like talking about being Muslim. In 2012, he told the Mirror:

I don’t think you should stick [your religion] in peoples faces. I think you should just keep it to yourself and that’s how I’ve always been with it.

Malik hasnt been much more forthcoming recently. He told Fader:

I would never be trying to influence anything or try to stamp myself as a religious statement or portrayal of anything. I am me. Im just doing me.

Malik declined to talk about his faith with Billboard.

But at a time when Muslims around the West are facing increasing discrimination and persecution, Maliks voice (in song or spoken words) could be more useful than ever.

Republican presidential candidates have repeatedly stoked fear of Muslim people in connection with ISIS and terrorism.

Meanwhile in Europe, the rush of refugees from Syria and the Middle East reignited damagingparanoia that accepting Muslim refugees increases the risk of terror attacks.

Although Maliks standing among Directioners isnt exactly steady these days, he was accepted as one of the worlds biggest pop stars for several years.

Donald Trump has been using the popularity of Islamophobia in America to gain traction, but as Trevor Noah connected, a young Muslim man is a global pop star:

Pop stars have historically used their platforms to discuss issues they care about, like Miley Cyrus and her foundation for homeless and LGBT youth. Malik could similarly use his status to stand up to Islamophobic sentiment.

Duncan Cooper at Fader suggested Malik shies away from speaking about his religion due to the horrendous backlash he gets from bigots, saying he may not feel safe enough to be more politically outspoken.

This is understandable; Malik has been harassed, mocked and sent death threats for even slight mentions of Islam and a #FreePalestine tweet.

And anyway, it shouldnt be every Muslim persons job to defend his or her religion from Islamophobesand One Direction haters.

You could argue Malik is doing enough by living as a normal 22-year-old who wants to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.

Malik is a hugely successful pop star with an Arabic name who tweets Eid Mubarak to 17 million followers for the major Islamic holidays.

Even if you want to laugh away One Direction, you cant laugh away the impact Malik’simage has on millions of young people around the globe.

Diyana Noory, now a university student in Ontario, wrote about how Malik simply living while following his religion and culture helped her embrace her own as a teenager in an essay for Noisey:

Zayn shared that his favorite food is samosas; I stopped hiding the tabouleh that I brought for lunch. Zayn tweeted Eid Mubarak; I quit typing happy eid and instead proudly posted Eid Mubarak on social media.

In a piece for Medium, Malik expert Fariha Roisin explained Zayn is helping to redefine the image of Muslim men both by being accepted as a pop star and by being forthcoming with his personal emotions.

Malik is showing non-Muslims that Muslims are no different from anybody else. He lays claim to the privilege his actions arent necessarily dictated or influenced by his religion. Hes not perfect, and he doesnt have to be perfect — hes human.

This is a form of the contact hypothesis — the theory suggesting discrimination can be lessened simply by biased people interacting with someone from a group they don’t like, thereby seeing people from that group as real peopleand not false stereotypes.

Malik is showing the world young Muslim men can struggle with their career choices because theyre growing up, not because theyre wondering if it fits their faith.

Hes showing the world young Muslim men can be sh*tty boyfriends because theyre bad at communication, not because they oppress women. Hes showing the world young Muslim men can be withdrawn because theyre shy or awkward, not because theyre plotting jihad.

Malik is showing the world a young Muslim man is the same as any other young man.

They do dumb things sometimes and are trying to figure out the best use for their talents, and sometimes they piss off millions of teenage girls (OK, maybe that one’s just Malik) because they are human and thats what humans do.

So you can argue Malik is doing enough simply by being the formerly hot one of One Direction who also happens to be Muslim.

But then again, if hes already moving mountains by just doing him, can you imagine the effect hed have if he actively and regularly spoke out, even a little bit, against Islamophobia?

Maybe its time for Malik to use his powerful position to stand up for something important. To createchange, its not enough to just exist —Malik has the platform tolight up the world like nobody else andmake itmore beautiful.

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