“You know, growing up as a brown skinned, turbaned, bearded man I’ve faced things like this before. It’s not a problem, we can deal with it. There’s gonna be other obstacles but we’re gonna face them with what? With love and courage.”
This was Jagmeet Singh’s response after a woman went on a racist rant against him in full public view. The Sikh politician was at a campaign event in Brampton for his candidature to lead New Democratic Party (NDP), a major federal party in Canada.
In the video, the woman can be seen trying to intimidate Jagmeet, telling him that he’s “in bed with Sharia law”. She makes more Islamophobic statements like, “We know you’re about the Muslim Brotherhood, we can tell by your votes.”
Even as she continues to try and shout him down, Jagmeet remains calm and unperturbed. Instead of responding to her confrontationally, he asks the crowd, “What do we believe in? We believe in love and courage right?”
When the woman continues to accuse Jagmeet and mocks him, he says, “We don’t want to be intimidated by hate. We don’t want hatred to ruin a positive event right?” He then goes on to address the racist heckler, saying, “We welcome you. We love you. We support you and we love you… We all support you and believe in your rights.”
His compassionate and non-confrontational approach is appreciated by the audience who can be heard chanting with him and applauding him. “We’re not going to be intimidated by hateful, it’s all good,” he says, as the woman finally walks away.
Watch the video here:
What also stood out in this exchange was that Jagmeet didn’t tell the woman that he was a Sikh and Sikhism doesn’t have anything to do with Islam.
He explained why didn’t say so in a statement he issued shortly after the incident: “While I’m proud of who I am, I purposely didn’t go down that road because it suggests their hate would be ok if I was Muslim. We all know it’s not. I didn’t answer the question because my response to Islamophobia has never been “I’m not Muslim.” It has always been and will be 'hate is wrong'.”
Read his full statement here:
Jagmeet Singh is known for speaking openly on matters of racism. When he began running for NDP leadership in July, he knew there would be questions about his racial background. As expected there were some negative reactions to his candidature, however, they didn’t surprise Jagmeet.
"People treated me unfairly … others were kind and warm and generous. The goal is not to be discouraged by that challenge and to accept there are places we need to grow," he told Huffpost.
If Jagmeet wins, he will be the first non-white person to lead a major federal party in Canada.