Sunday night, Zayn Malik of the massively popular boy band One Direction tweeted a simple, 15-character message to his 13 million followers. It said, simply: “#FreePalestine.”
— zaynmalik1D (@zaynmalik) July 28, 2014
It soon became apparent that not everyone agreed with his opinion on the emotionally charged conflict, that has seen over 1,000 Palestinians perish in Gaza and 43 Israelis killed. “U have fans in #Israel. It broke me that one of my idols wand me to die @benwinstone @harry_styles @onedirection [sic],” one of the lighter tweets at him read.
A small sampling of the heavier tweets directed at Malik, who, it should be noted, was raised a Muslim: Malik’s tweet was just the latest example of celebrities picking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and facing an immediate backlash for having spoken out. Two weeks ago, Rihanna deleted a “#FreePalestine” tweet less than 10 tense minutes after it appeared and followed up with a message that read: “Let’s pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?”
NBA star Dwight Howard also insta-deleted a #FreePalestine tweet, saying it was “a mistake.” He added: “I have never commented on international politics and never will.”
Malik, the One Direction singer, may have more of a personal connection to the conflict, given his Muslim upbringing.
In a BBC interview last year, the singer’s mother, Trish, explained that she was born to a white British family but converted to Islam after marrying a British Pakistani, Yasser.
“I made sure the children went to the mosque,” she said in the interview. “Zayn has read the Koran three times.”
Malik previously said in an interview that “I believe that your religion should be between you and whoever your belief is in. I don’t think you should stick it in people’s faces. I think you should just keep it to yourself and that’s how I’ve always been with it.”
Of anti-Muslim messages he was receiving, Malik added: “I thought we had moved away from that and we’re living in the 21st century and people could accept people from different religions.”
In 2013, according to the Mirror, Malik was the subject of “a vile song” — “Zayn Did 9/11″ — that blamed him for the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
Here, by the way is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, explained: