The entertainment industry clearly has a representation issue and we have seen that more protests against this more than ever this past year. Although some have argued that many racial and even some sexual minority groups have made progress s, there still seems to be a severe lack of diversity in one other section: religion.
Many have argued that politics and religion do not belong in the entertainment industry but when life imitates art it becomes increasingly hard to realize how untrue this is; there is a major group of the population missing from the media: Muslims. Muslims make up 23% of the world population, yet are rarely featured in modern day media. If they are included, they are commonly stereotyped as villains and evildoers. Despite noticing the obvious wrongdoing, many still don't seem to care simply because of Islamophobia. There is someone who has the chance to break down barriers in the mainstream entertainment industry, and that person is Zayn Malik.
Malik, of English and Pakistani descent was a member of the popular UK-based band One Direction. Out of all five members, Malik was the only person of color despite the obvious attempt to whitewash him. In a recent interview with the New York Times Malik said that he was told he wasn't allowed to grew and groom his hair certain ways as well as tweet certain things in an attempt to garner attention way from his Pakistani heritage and Muslim beliefs. In the midst of the 2015 bombings of Palestine Malik received a shocking amount of backlash and threats simply because he tweeted "#FreePalestine". His management and band mates whom he thought of as his "four brothers" remained silent and did not come to his aid and have still never spoken on the topic.
In the age of Islamophobia, Malik was constantly called a "terrorist" and later accused of "leaving to join ISIS" because of his religion. As a practicing Muslim, he was once again not backed up by his management, nor his band mates.
Meanwhile many celebrities such as Carrie Underwood, Mark Wahlberg, Nick Jonas, Ciara and even Justin Bieber have been praised for proclaiming their love for their Christian God, while regular civilians are attacked for simply appearing to be Muslim. Being a Muslim in Hollywood is an even smaller minority that many seem to overlook for obvious reasons. With his album dropping within the next few days, one can't help but pray for his success not only for what he has endured while being in a group, but also for the hope that this marks the beginning of a more accepting time in Hollywood and in society.
For the simple fact that many look up to and idolize celebrities and their views, the wide acceptance and support of Malik can't help but suggest that this may mark a shift in the attitudes towards Muslims. For many this may seem like a long shot, especially considering the fact that many people of color are still not fully respected despite their hard work and years of dedication. For it to be 2016, there is far too little positive representation and coverage of Muslims, particularly those of color.
Months after his departure, Malik signed to RCA records, who also represented the legendary Whitney Houston, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Snoop Dog. Malik has also already been featured on a remix of Chris Brown's "Back to Bed" with Usher. Two of the biggest names of R&B in the last twenty years and early reviews of his album have compared his voice to The Weekend and Usher, but with a sound a vibe all his own. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Juicy J, and MYKL have also praised the album. With his large fanbase of old and new fans, as well as his new management, Malik has all the tools for success, the only thing left is for mainstream media to accept him for what he is.
His debut solo album Mind of Mine debuts on March 25, one year after Malik's departure from One Direction was announced.