NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh says he avoided clarifying his religious background when confronted by an anti-Muslim protester at a Brampton event, because he didn’t want to suggest that hateful statements are acceptable when targeted towards Muslims.
Singh was speaking to supporters at one of his “JagMeet and Greet” outreach events on Wednesday, when he was accosted by a heckler.
“When is your Sharia going to end?” the woman shouted, referring to traditional Islamic law. “We know you’re in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood!”
As she continued ranting, Singh told the audience, “We don’t want to be intimidated by hate, we don’t want hatred to ruin a positive event… so let’s show people how to treat someone with love.
“We welcome you. We love you, we support you,” he told the woman, who eventually stormed off.
On Saturday, Singh published a statement to social media explaining his response.
“Many people have commented that I could have just said I’m not Muslim. In fact many have clarified that I’m actually Sikh. 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,” he said.
“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 that ‘hate is wrong.”
Singh added his calm response to the woman was driven by a desire to “set the tone for the room.”
“Despite this person’s anger and hate, I told them that we loved them, respected them, and would protect their rights,” he said.
“Once allowed to grow, hate doesn’t pick and choose, it spreads like fire. Once we say it’s ok to hate someone based on their religion, we’re also opening the door to hate based on race, gender, sexuality, and more.”
The heckler, who later identified herself as Jennifer Bush, published a YouTube video, filmed at the annual Ford Fest event in Etobicoke, Ont., in which she states that she’s aware that Singh is Sikh and not Muslim, and that her problem with him has to do with his policies rather than his race or religion.
Bush is tied to the group Rise Canada, which has vocally opposed Islamic prayer accommodations in Peel schools.