Federal NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh. Photo: CC, Ideas Dept.
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In an era of angry responses, Singh shows another way

In a climate set on fighting provocation with reaction, Jagmeet Singh’s response to racist heckling could be a return to the neglected non-violent approach.

Jagmeet Singh, an MPP from Bramalea-Gore-Malton, is the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator in Ontario. He also announced his run for the federal leadership of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in May.

Singh held an event in Brampton on Wednesday, Sept. 6 where his speech was interrupted by racist heckling. The woman who interrupted his speech, Jennifer Bush, has been linked to Rise Canada, a group that calls for the deportation of Muslims in Canada.

Bush accused Singh, who is Sikh, of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Sharia Law—a set of rules and principles that varies by culture and is generally drawn from tenets of Islam.

Rather than correcting the heckler about his faith, Singh responded, “We love you, we welcome you.” Singh then led the crowd in chanting “love and courage,” a slogan he has used throughout his campaign.

Singh could have easily engaged in debate with Bush, but instead he chose to take the high road and not give her the satisfaction of taking her comments to heart, something we can all learn from.

Singh was able to embody all of these values in his enlightened response to the disrupter. He maintained a calm, collected demeanor even going so far as to say “Let her speak as much as she wants, it’s okay…” when aides tried to usher her away.

Many, including myself, were left wondering why Singh didn’t just tell her that he wasn’t a Muslim.

Singh had reason to point out her ignorance. There is a history of violent difference between Muslims and Sikhs, such as with Muslims martyring Sikh gurus during the Mughal dynasty. In Kashmir, Muslims were persecuted under Sikh rule. The partition of India in 1947 saw even more violence between the two groups.

It would have been simple for Singh to teach the distinction.

In response to questions of why he did not, Singh released a statement on Saturday, reiterating that this kind of hate, as seen through Bush’s actions is unacceptable regardless of his religion.

Singh welcomed Bush for the same reason that he welcomes Muslims, Christians, non-believers, and others. He has a grounding in his own Canadian cultural tradition and a belief in the power of progressive thinkers who came before him. He reminded us that an angry reaction is not the only set play in the playbook. His lesson wasn’t just for Bush, but for people from all walks of life.