Rule No. 1 of the Internet: Do not anger the Directioners.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart fell foul of this rule on Friday, after airing a joke implying that a member of One Direction joined an Islamic terrorist “supergroup.” Since 1D singer Zayn Malik is a Muslim and has long been on the receiving end of Islamophobic “jokes,” Directioners didn’t take kindly to this punchline.
The segment riffs on the sudden appearance of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) and includes correspondent Jessica Williams joking about new terrorist groups with names like "Al Kill'ya All" and "Al Fuq Yu'up.” In one punchline, Williams says, “Just as you were talking, a new terrorist group formed, with one member each from ISIS, al-Nusra, Al Qaeda, Hamas, One Direction, and the Zetas drug cartel.”
This may sound like a harmless joke about supergroups, but that’s only if you’re unaware of how much online harassment One Direction singer Zayn Malik has experienced in the past. Malik has even spoken about people calling him a “terrorist” on Twitter, so his fans are understandably sensitive to jokes that might come across as Islamophobic.
This Vine video has gone viral on Twitter, showing a clip from the show and a message that reads, “It stopped being funny when you think about how one of our boys have been struggling with the longest time about terrorist labels because of the color of his skin & his religious beliefs.”
Within hours, #TheDailyShowGoneTooFar was the worldwide top trending topic on Twitter, with Directioners demanding that The Daily Show apologize for the joke. Another hashtag, #ZaynMalikOrAnAngel, was dedicated to Malik’s charity work and other good deeds.
Neither Malik or The Daily Show has commented on the backlash, although it does seem unlikely that TDS meant to target Malik directly in the first place.
Much like how it took two days for 1D fandom to find out about this joke, there’s probably an equally wide cultural gap between TDS writers and people who can name and identify the religion of all the members of One Direction. A terrorist joke about a Muslim celebrity sounds more like something Jon Stewart would criticize, rather than something he’d condone on his own show.