Can I just talk to you about Zayn Malik for a moment? No, this isn’t going to be a self-indulgent love letter to Zayn where I declare my un-denying love for him and speak about my plans to leave my family in hopes that he will follow suit and join me as we see the world together and live happily ever after- that’s what I use Twitter for.
I wanted to talk about Zayn Malik; the person because quite frankly, I think he is pretty fucking great. Since shooting to fame in 2010 alongside his bandmates with One Direction, Zayn has become the unofficial hero to much of the Muslim youth living in the UK and even the greater world.
Zayn heralds from Bradford, a sleepy town in the UK made up of predominately South Asians, he was raised a Muslim by his Father who is a British Pakistani and his Mother who is English with Irish descent. He lived close to a local Mosque and read the Quran three times a day. Zayn is a product of modern Britain in every sense of the word but remains cooler than most of us would be if we were in his shoes.
Before Zayn Malik there were no visible British Muslims in the mainstream media. The only media coverage British Muslims would get would be either be to do terrorism or immigration and any talk about Muslims in any other capacity would be fused with blaring xenophobia. But then Zayn appeared on The X Factor and for the first time, you saw a British Muslim on your screens every Saturday night singing Mario’s hit single ‘Let me Love You’ and famously refusing to dance on stage.
The Muslim youth finally had someone just like them on TV. Second generation Muslims are aspirational, they’ve grown up seeing how their parents have struggled to raise them while working and all they want is to return the favour. These aspirations tend to go outside the realms of accepted professional many older South Asian parents believe are suitable. Doctor, Lawyer or Banker are fine but anything else is not even up for discussion.
But then here you have Zayn, second generation Muslim who has gone one to become an international popstar, being the face of one of the biggest boybands in the world and now going it alone. He is a true testament to the millions of second generation Muslims who have hopes of following their dreams instead of appeasing the plans their parents have set out for them. “But look at Zayn Malik! He’s Muslim and he’s a popstar!”
Zayn’s pull is so much that every year fans await his annual “Eid Mubarak” message on Twitter akin to how the nation awaits the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day. #EidMubarakZaynMalik trends every single year with his diverse fan base wishing him well with hopes of getting a retweet or reply back from their idol. He even uses his own Twitter account to express his political views, he received massive backlash for tweeting #FreePalestine but says to this day that he doesn’t regret it. And his solo album, “Mind of Mine”, features a stunning Qawwali-style track titled “Intermission: Flower” where he celebrates his cultural upbringing.
Even more recently, Zayn spoke out about his issues with anxiety after revealing it was the reason he had to pull out of his appearance at the Capital’s Summertime Ball. Mental health is still taboo in the South Asian community and I can only imagine Zayn’s revelation, that he too has issues with mental health, will only serve to help other Muslim and greater South Asians talk about their own mental health openly and could even start a healthy discussion on the topic, which is sadly always brushed to the side within South Asian communities.
He hasn’t escaped receiving racist and ignorant comments on social media but sadly that is to be expected. He often gets mocked on Twitter with many people claiming that he was behind 9/11 and digitally imposing his face onto Bin Laden. Azealia Banks went on a Twitter tirade the other week calling Zayn’s mother a ‘dirty refugee’ and ‘curry smelling bitch’. She even said he was a token Paki of One Direction purely for marketing. But what does Zayn do in the face of all this? Nothing. He upholds a dignified silence and doesn’t let it phase him. Which is a practice I wish a lot of the Muslim youth would adopt when facing the same barrage of ignorance on social media.
Zayn is a regular guy, he has had breakups and bust ups, he dances (or in the case of his X Factor audition, he refuses vehemently) to the beat of his own drum. He’s a hero to second generation Muslims living in the UK but doesn’t make a big fuss about it. He’s flattered by his title as a sex symbol amongst the gay community and tries to give back to his hometown of Bradford as much as he can. He’s the northern lad done good but what’s is best of all is that he’s one of us.