Zayn Malik On What Being A British Muslim Means To Him

Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.
With anti-Muslim sentiment reaching frightening levels, it's more important than ever to see counterexamples of the Islamophobic stereotypes we've been taught. And one of the most well-known celebrities who shatters stereotypes about Muslims is Zayn Malik, who is half-Pakistani and half-British. In an interview with The London Evening Standard, he talked about what the religion he was raised with means to him and how it's shaped his experiences.
"I take a great sense of pride — and responsibility — in knowing that I am the first of my kind, from my background," he said. "I’m not currently practicing but I was raised in the Islamic faith, so it will always be with me, and I identify a lot with the culture. But I’m just me. I don’t want to be defined by my religion or my cultural background."
His background has, however, influenced people's perceptions of him. He believes, for example, it's led airport security to be more suspicious of him. "The first time I came to America, I had three security checks before I got on the plane; first they said that I’d been randomly selected, and then they said it was something to do with my name, it was flagging something on their system," he said. "Then when I landed, it was like a movie. They kept me there for three hours, questioning me about all kinds of crazy stuff. I was 17, my first time in America, jet-lagged off the plane, confused. The same thing happened the next time too."
Zayn's girlfriend Gigi Hadid, who is half-Palestinian, has also spoken out against Islamophobia by protesting Trump's travel ban with a sign reading "we are all humans." Her sister Bella told Porter magazine that this issue hit "very close to home" because their father came to the U.S. as a refugee. "I am proud to be a Muslim," she said.
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