In an interview with British Vogue, Zayn Malik revealed that he no longer identified as a Muslim.
The former One Direction singer admitted that even though he’s never spoken publicly about his religious beliefs, he’s not “professed to be a Muslim.”
When asked if he would call himself a Muslim, he told the publication: “No, I wouldn’t.”
“I believe whatever people’s religious beliefs are is between them and whoever or whatever they’re practicing. For me, I have a spiritual belief of there is a god. Do I believe there’s a hell? No.”
Though he has a sense of spiritual belief, Malik does not believe in practices specific to Islam such as eating halal meat or praying daily.
His comments sparked a backlash among users on social media with some saying that “Islam has left him”, whilst another user said: “fully understand why so many things are haraam in Islam, the music industry and alcohol being an example. They just distance you from your religion till you’ve lost all faith.
“Zayn’s a prime example of letting fame get to his head. Cancelled.”
Though fans may feel somewhat connected to the singer, the negative and somewhat aggressive responses to his admission is not only unwarranted, it’s not any of our business.
Religion is often a very personal thing. Zayn sharing his stance on his beliefs may not align with some practicing Muslims, but if we are going to react to his decision, it should be met with the understanding that it isn’t for any one of us to criticise or judge.
His lifestyle has been brought up in a lot of tweets with people citing his drinking and tattoos as examples of him not being a Muslim in the first place. While this may not be prohibited, assumptions and judging others is also frowned upon.
There is the belief within Islam that Muslims should not judge others or be harsh in our criticism of other people. In fact, it’s encouraged to reflect on our own defects before looking at other people. When we start to look inward at ourselves, we don’t even bother with other people because there should be a priority to better ourselves.
With religion and spirituality being such a personal thing, should we expect celebrities to uphold religious beliefs, just because we have them?
There is an unprecedented amount of expectations placed on them because of the platform they have being in the public eye. A celebrity that happens to either be from a certain ethnic background or who identifies with a certain religion is then expected to uphold and represent that entire community because of a lack of representation within mainstream media.
However when they deviate away from the ideals we want them to uphold, it is seen as turning their back or doing a disservice to said groups.
Our environment doesn’t always remain the same and so our beliefs, opinions and outlooks are subject to change. There are many people who deviate away from their faith only to come back to it later in life, and even if they don’t and end up following some other form of spirituality or none at all, ultimately it is that person’s decision. There is a big difference in admiring a celebrity’s talent or work ethic and then expecting them to mirror our values in a way we deem correct.
Right now there is a negative discourse surrounding Muslims with Islamophobia still very much alive. There is the understandable argument that someone having the platform that Zayn has could use it for good and spread positive messages to counteract hostility towards Muslims.
Ultimately though we cannot just rely on public figures to change the tide. If the dialogue surrounding Muslims is going to change, everyone has to play a part in making this happen.
As for Zayn’s choice to align himself with beliefs that resonate with him, that is his decision and his journey. The best we can do as ‘fans’ is remain respectful in our opinions even though they’re not necessarily warranted. If we choose to comment however, let’s do it in such a way that remains true to the faith we ourselves represent.