Many celebrities have publicly announced their outrage about the conflict in Gaza Strip, with roughly 40 percent of the population forced to flee their homes by Israeli forces. However, the majority of publications, including the Washington Post, has decided to single out Zayn Malik for his "#FreePalestine" tweet four days ago.
Zayn Malik, when in the headlines, can never go without a reporter mentioning his Muslim faith. This pattern continued when he joined a number of celebrities expressing support of those suffering in the Gaza conflict. The Washington Post's J. Freedom du Lac spends the last third of a recent article on Malik's Muslim faith, saying "it should be noted" and that it gives Malik "a closer connection" to the conflict in Palestine. It isn't until we get to the end does du Lac provide a link on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, he chooses to ignore the atrocities of the situation and focuses on a moot point
Aside from diving into Malik's faith and recounting his experience on being raised Muslim, Du Lac gives little to no explanation on how Malik's faith gives a "closer connection" in comparison to the other celebrities.
If Zayn Malik tweeted, "As a Muslim, I say #FreePalestine" it would be different.
But he didn't.
Malik's support for Palestine isn't necessarily tied to his Muslim identity. Sympathy towards the suffering of Palestinians isn't one that is based solely on Muslim identity. Seeing photos of four dead children on the beach in Gaza is enough to make any human being, regardless of faith, enraged at the atrocities committed against innocent lives. To claim that Malik's Muslim faith gives him a "closer connection" to the conflict is to make the assumption that Malik's intentions for his tweet in favor of Palestine stem only from the fact that he is Muslim. That's insulting.
If religion is truly a case here for someone's support for a side on this conflict, then it would make sense for du Lac to elaborate on Dwight Howard's devotion to Christianity. The star of the Houston Rockets did state that he wants to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world" before he was drafted by the NBA in 2004. And Christianity does have a strong history in the Holy Land and there are several Christian-based organizations like Christians United for Israel and Christians United for Palestine, but it wouldn't make sense to provide a linkage between Howard's faith and his outrage on the conflict. Why? Simply, because Howard doesn't have any affiliation or made any public contribution to Christian-based Palestinian organizations as of yet.
That's the same for Malik. There's no evidence that Malik is part of a Muslim-based organization that provides humanitarian assistance to Palestine nor does he have any family members living in the region. There's no reason to say the singer has a "closer connection" than other celebrities other than the underlying intention to delegitimize his support for Palestine.
If the media is looking for another interesting story about celebrities getting involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are different angles to approach this story that are far more newsworthy. They can still include Zayn Malik, and perhaps discuss that while he's come out publicly in support of a nation in peril, Simon Cowell, who's credited for the success of One Direction and "should also be noted" is Jewish, donates $150,000 to the Israeli Defense Force.
As Vox's Zack Beauchamp recently wrote, Americans who are invested in this conflict often view the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so tribally that "even basic analytic issues become deeply, inextricably divisive." Malik is an Englishman hailing from Bradford, and rarely makes public statements of his faith on Twitter. There isn't any tribal viewpoint from Malik unless it's coming from du Lac and company's reporting.
In an interview published on Britain's Mirror.co.uk, Malik said that he believes religion should be a quiet matter: "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".
Unfortunately, he won't be able to keep it to himself.
This media uproar is only just a glimpse of the media's obsession with Zayn Malik's Islamic faith. And thus, he's been imposed upon this rigorous duty that none of his band members have to deal with, one that he never asked for, of becoming a representative of the global Muslim community. His identity as a global pop sensation and his "bad boy" image will always be degraded by fitting within the media's limited box of Muslim-ness. As long as the media singles out his faith, he will forever live with the fact that his political or social stances will be tied to his Muslim beliefs. No matter how many charities he donates to, or the number of people he's touched with his music, he'll never be seen for the value he brings to the world. He'll never be seen beyond his Muslim faith.