The Paper Planes musician, real name Mathangi Arulpragasam, collaborated with Zayn on Freedun, a track on her new album AIM.
And the controversial hip hop star, who was born in Britain but grew up in Sri Lanka and has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of refugees, feels Zayn deals well with being a high profile Muslim in an increasingly fraught political climate.
"I like Zayn because he's going through something really weird," she tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper. "He's going solo in a time where the world is getting more and more divisive."
Immigration from Muslim countries to America and Europe has been a major political issue over the past few years due to attacks by followers of the Islamic State terrorist organisation and an influx of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria.
She adds that despite the temptation for the former One Direction star to avoid causing offence, he's unafraid to speak out about the issues he cares about.
"The pressure on him is more and more, because of the fact that he's half-Pakistani, and he tweets s**t like #FreePalestine," she explains.
"He's gone from not talking about something, to having to carry all the pressures of somebody who embodies all these things. Even if he's not playing that card, we project all that s**t on to him."
M.I.A.'s own advocacy for the cause of the Palestinian people in their long-term conflict with the government of Israel has caused her trouble in the past as the video for her 2004 single Sunshowers was banned by bosses at MTV due to a sympathetic reference to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
As for Zayn, he is set to reveal his innermost thoughts in a new book charting his rise to fame with One Direction and his subsequent departure from the boy band to pursue a solo career. The book will hit the shops in November (16).
Freedun was released earlier this month (Sep16), with the release of AIM following last Friday (09Sep16).