One Direction star Zayn Malik has caused an uproar on social media by revealing he doesn't identify as a Muslim anymore.
In an interview with British Vogue, the pop star who makes a point of never talking about his religious beliefs was asked if he "would call himself a Muslim now." To which the singer thoughtfully replied, "No I wouldn't."
Malik from Bradford in the UK is the city's most famous son. Bradford has a thriving Muslim population and some of them have erupted in fury at Malik's claim.
Malik, who was raised in the Islamic faith, appears to have strayed from it in recent years and the man who has a penchant for tattoos is often pictured enjoying himself with a glass of alcohol and a cigarette.
Many observers have said the announcement Malik is no longer a Muslim is hardly a shock, even if he was rumored to have been back in his home city a few months ago celebrating the Islamic festival of Eid with family and friends.
Nevertheless, when many on social media heard the news, it caused something of a firestorm. Diehard fans called for people to unfollow their former hero on Twitter and some even launched vicious and scathing attacks on Malik for exercising his own free will.
Writing in the Mirror, British Pakistani Muslim writer Anila Baig believes the reaction to Malik's announcement beggars belief.
Baig wrote, "Here in Bradford the news has been met with shock, not because he no longer identifies as a Muslim but the fact that he's admitted it."
"There are people saying he needs more prayers and guidance at this turbulent time, that he's obviously lost. It's one thing to be slightly disappointed that one of the few high profile and successful Muslims no longer sees himself as one but it's quite another when some people are being unapologetically vile and abusive."Baig also writes that the mob is baying for Malik's blood as if we're still living in Salem in the 1600s.
She compares Malik's case as being the online equivalent to the "stomach-turning scenes in Pakistan regarding Asia Bibi who is accused of blasphemy." Bibi has been accused of blaspheming and crowds consisting of mainly men are calling for her death.
Although Malik has stated that he appreciates learning about the Islamic faith at the mosque he visited as a youngster and admits there are many beautiful parts of the religion, he simply chooses not to identify as a Muslim anymore.