Why Zayn Malik is More Important than You Think He is

by Giz TimesJune 18, 2015

The name of this successful young man needs no introduction. We live in a world which is obsessed with One Direction: either people love them too much, or they hate them too much. The band formed in July 2010 on X Factor UK with Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson as members, is hard to ignore once a step in the social world is taken. If you are still unaware of who they are, you clearly need a better general knowledge. Even if it has only been nearly five years since this boy-band was formed, the amount of success they have achieved and the mountains of accomplishment they have climbed is not only unpredictable, it is unprecedented. They have not only outrun their competitors in the league and reached the status which legendary artists could not think of, they have created new boundaries and goals with which competition seems impossible. On March 25, 2015 Zayn Malik announced his departure from the band, and even after being away from the limelight for all these months, his status and power is still not affected.

There have been many instances which reminded the whole world how big of a deal he is: thousands of workers in United Kingdom petitioning for a compassionate leave from their offices after his departure was announced, fans going into a frenzy after his appearance at The Asian Awards, and yes, especially after his picture with Shah Rukh Khan which the latter tweeted with some kindhearted words for Zayn, and the fans, media, and basically everyone going crazy after his demo song, I Won’t Mind, for his solo album was dropped, and his recent collaboration with Mic Righteous on a remix of Rae Sremmurd’s No Type which was leaked on SoundCloud. Needless to say, he is a big phenomenon. He has proven that he is not just an extremely attractive face, but his talent and his social influence also hold a great significance. His 14.6M followers on Twitter are a proof of it.

But what makes Zayn different than all the other famous celebrities is the religion he openly follows. Zayn, a Muslim-British, has been a great target of racism and islamophobia. Just from his innocent tweets of wishing everyone Ramadan and Eid, haters have made him the butt of many racist cynical jokes, and many orthodox Christians went ahead to criticize Malik for his open practices and Arabic tattoos. The height of this chauvinism resulted in thousands of people cyber-bullying Malik because of his religion, and as a result he was forced to delete his Twitter account (he decided to come back on the Social Media platform only for his fans who were extremely worried and did not waste a second to defend him).

Trisha Malik, Zayn’s mother, said in an interview with BBC. “”Me and Zayn’s dad stopped looking at social media because he (Zayn’s dad) used to get upset about what people had written.”

He has been tagged as a terrorist, bomber, and what-not. Even though his departure led to many broken hearts and a worldwide trend, #AlwaysInOurHeartZaynMalik, on Twitter which lasted more than 48 hours, haters held their flag of racism with no sympathy for the former band member and his fans. They ceased the opportunity again to target him, and within a few hours #ZaynMalikLeftOTRAToJoinISIS was trending, and many people made posts and tweets asking him to bomb the rest of the boys in One Direction. Not only this, a YouTube video, which gained a lot of attention, was created titled ‘Zayn did 9 /11’, and Bill Maher, a talk show host, made a jab at Malik by linking him to the Boston bomber.

Even we Indians live in a country which has a vast population of Muslims, but the hatred and bigotry against many of them is still so evident it cannot go unnoticed. People of every generation can be seen as being prejudiced towards them, whether they do it openly or on a mild level. It may not be everyone, but there are enough people following this racial path to make it a social problem, and not a personal one. In a world where Muslims are subtly forced to hide their identity which is related to their religion, where they have to change their names and their appearances to make them look more Western to feel safe, they are still targeted immensely and these measures can lessen the hatred but it, in no way, solves it. And in such a world, Malik, only 22 years old, has achieved something that not only is his personal achievement but showcases a new hope and light towards this inequality, and proves that this battle can still be won.

Majority of the world, even secular states, gets an impression of Islam by what is reported on the news, TV shows, movies, and other social outlets for the masses, and when such platforms choose to generalize the entire population of Muslims as bad, or sideline them, or even falsify them, the public does not blink an eye before accepting it and forming their opinion on it, even the ones who have seen both the sides in reality. Many Bollywood movies and even the Hollywood ones, find an easy ‘bad guy’ in a Muslim man/organization which is put down by the ‘hero’, and even though it is strictly fictional and done for entertainment purposes, constant repetition of this formula has second-handedly created an idea in the mind of the audience which, consciously or subconsciously allows them to participate in the ongoing struggle, and unfortunately, they pick the wrong side. But Malik, with his power and presence is changing the story. He is showing another side to the world where Muslims are no longer just bombers, or billionaire misogynists; they are talented and peaceful human beings. A lot of people, whether they have been a fan of One Direction or not, who have been disregarded in their life and have dealt with racial issues see a bit of themselves in Zayn Malik and relate to him; he also gives hope and courage to such people.

His presence alone is enough to bring the sidelined issue of islamophobia to the limelight and change everyone’s perception, especially of the Western world, which have been a major part of the One Direction fan base. His own personal struggle with fame has not gone unnoticed, but through these years, he has been adjusting himself in the world and, deliberately or not, he is radical and his mere being is driving millions of people to reconsider their stand and voice their issue for a better world.

“I almost felt like I didn’t fit in at my first two schools because I was the only mixed heritage kid in my class. When my sister and I moved to a different school it was a lot more mixed so I felt like I fitted in better,” said Zayn Malik in one of his interviews.

Zayn Malik’s fan base may mostly be young girls, but those girls are faintly causing a revolution and painting a picture of a better, discrimination-free future.


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