Our favorite British boy band pop star Zayn Malik may have departed from One Direction but that hasn't deterred the support of his fans one bit. Twitter has exploded after what is being called a "racist" and "Islamophobic" joke made by American television host Bill Maher on the online segment of his show "Real Time" last week.
During the short segment, Maher starts out comedically complaining about Zayn's departure from One Direction saying, "I think after everything we’ve been through, I at least deserved the common respect of being told face to face."
Continuing in a humorous manner Maher says, "Just tell me two things, Zayn. Which one in the band were you?"
And then the comedy takes a turn to the not funny with Maher saying, "And where were you during the Boston Marathon?" Displaying Zayn's photo next to that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers who resembles Zayn.
The audience is heard audibly gasping at first and then begins laughing while transitioning to applause at the offensive joke. Since Zayn has always been open about his Muslim faith, the comparison to a terrorist came across as unnecessary and in poor taste to many on social media.
Maher has long been known for his criticism of Islam and has been accused of racism and Islamophobia over numerous comments in the past. An avowed atheist, Maher makes a point of attacking any and all religious ideology that he deems ridiculous.
Reacting to the most recent comments, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told PEOPLE, "It shows that he’s really not missing an opportunity to engage in his Islamaphobic themes. He serves to legitimize Islamaphobic in the left which is one of the unfortunate byproducts of his intolerance of Islam and Muslims.”
Using the hashtag #RespectForZayn, social media users blasted Maher for his distasteful and uncalled for comparison.
Zayn recently announced his decision to leave One Direction less than two weeks before the band was scheduled to perform the largest concert ever held in the United Arab Emirates during their international tour. Both regional fans and fans across the world were upset with Zayn's decision but regardless, they have remained loyal.
Carrying on with the tour without Zayn, One Direction performed at their Dubai concert on Saturday, however, they were temporarily worried they wouldn't make it due to the sandstorm . The band was stuck on a plane for some 18 hours and rerouted to Bahrain as they waited for the sand clouds to subside.
In the end, the Dubai concert was a success although most fans likely felt a sense of loss at Zayn's absence. Now however the anger they may have felt toward him seems to have turned toward defensive rage at Maher. Although the TV host may be accustomed to making controversial statements, can he handle the Directioners' wrath?
Personally, we're hoping for at least an apology.