When British pop star Zayn Malik tweets “Eid Mubarak” every year at the end of Ramadan, his Muslim fans around the world go wild. “Thank you for making me so happy!” some respond, while others reply with Eid greetings and prayers in Arabic and Urdu, or send Eid cards and fan art.
But now the former One Direction singer says he no longer identifies as Muslim. In an interview with British Vogue this week, Malik said he appreciates his religious upbringing but is no longer religious himself, beyond a “spiritual belief” in a God.
“I don’t believe you need to eat a certain meat that’s been prayed over a certain way, I don’t believe you need to read a prayer in a certain language five times a day,” Malik said. “I don’t believe any of it. I just believe if you’re a good person everything is going to go right for you.”
Many Muslims have expressed disappointment in his decision, and others have sharply criticized the “Pillowtalk” singer for what they perceived as him mocking Muslim beliefs and rituals.
But the Muslim fans who spoke to Religion News Service about his interview said they applaud Malik’s bravery in discussing his faith journey openly.
“I feel really happy he was honest about it,” said Fatimah Umar, who runs a Malik fan account on Twitter. “It is incredibly difficult for anyone to come forward with something of the sort (especially) in the Muslim community. The insane backlash he’s received isn’t something any Christian celebrities receive when they come forward as non-religious.”