(MSNBC) — As the British-Irish boy band One Direction soared in the pop charts, making teen and tween girls around the world swoon and scream, band member Zayn Malik, tweeted a message that would perplex a large segment of his fans, while being immediately recognizable to millions of others.

“La ila ha ill lalla ho muhammed door rasoolalah.” The 47-character tweet is a common declaration of faith among Muslims: “There is no god but God and Mohammad is the prophet of God.”

It was one signal from Malik that as part of his public persona he would embrace a religion that is often feared and reviled in the West, while otherwise acting the traditional teen idol alongside his four floppy-haired band mates in One Direction.

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