What Zayn Malik Means for Millennial Muslims and Islamophobia

November 19th 2015

Diana Crandall

Zayn Malik, a former band member from One Direction and one of the most prominent Muslim celebrities in the Western world, made powerful statements about what it’s like to be Muslim in a new interview with Fader Magazine.

Like many Muslims around the world, Malik is living his life, he explains:

“I’m just a normal person as well as following my religion, and doing all the normal things that everybody else does. I love music and I get tattoos and I make mistakes, and I’ve had to go through relationships and break up relationships. I feel proud that people actually look to me and can see themselves in that.”

ALSO: Aaron Rodgers Calls out Fan for Islamophobic Comment

Many of Malik’s Muslim fans have acknowledged that his presence in One Direction encouraged new dialogue in their communities about what it means to be Muslim, Fader Magazine points out.


Missed my mouth

A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

“One major change I noticed in my local Muslim community when One Direction started becoming more famous was the increase of dialogue about pop culture and what it “means” to be Muslim,” Diyana Noory wrote in an op-ed for Vice.

“Zayn’s increasingly open acknowledgement of his unique identity is something that has helped many people of color and Muslim fans break out of their shells, myself included.”

Malik has a Pakistani father named Yaser and an English mother named Tricia, who converted to Islam to marry Zayn’s father, according to Fader Magazine.

RELATED: These Charts Show Why and Where Islamophobia Exists

“I believe that your religion should be between you and whoever your belief is in. I don't think you should stick it in people’s faces,” Malik said in 2012, the Mirror reports.

ALSO: Donald Trump Responds to Accusations of Islamophobia On '60 Minutes'

Malik’s normalcy clearly squashes the Islamophobic stereotype that many people have about Muslim extremism.

According to Gallup, Islamophobia is defined as: "an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.”


A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

Still, despite his powerful celebrity status, Malik isn’t driven to talk directly about political issues, including Islamophobia, according to Fader Magazine.

“Maybe that’s because over the past five years he’s been accused, both seriously and satirically, of causing 9/11, joining ISIS, and recruiting fans to wage jihad, or because people threatened to kill him after he tweeted #FreePalestine,” writes journalist Duncan Cooper, who interviewed Malik for the article.


A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

When Cooper asked Malik if he doesn’t speak out because of these accusations, Malik reportedly said: “It’s not even the harassment. I just don’t want to be influential in that sense.”

To read Malik’s full interview with Fader Magazine, click here.

RELATED: Matt McGorry Responds to Islamophobia With a Viral Meme