Does Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh, really know much about the Sikhs? Does he know how the religion began, as a kind of warrior sect, able to fight back against the Muslims who had conquered much of India? Is he aware of how Muslims, during the Partition, slaughtered tens, and possibly hundreds, of thousands of Sikhs, and how even today in Pakistan, it is dangerous to be a Sikh? In Muslim-dominated Pakistan, Sikhs are often mistreated, and sometimes murdered, by Muslims. Muslims have been known to practice what some call a “Love-Jihad,” by kidnapping Sikh (and Hindu) girls, forcing them to convert to Islam, and then marrying them. And this happens not only in Pakistan, but in the UK as well. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Jagmeet Singh is a Canadian politician whose appeal among the young has made him a rising star, as head of the New Democratic Party. He also is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. He deserves looking into, and worrying about. “Rising star or dark force? Jagmeet Singh plans to leave his mark on Canada-Israel relations,” by Ami Friedman, Israel Hayom, July 30, 2021:
Singh, who might play a decisive role in events in our region in the not-too-distant future, started out as a criminal defense lawyer, but over time was drawn – almost involuntarily, as he likes to tell it – into a life of public service.
I would argue that Singh is still acting as a criminal defense lawyer, with the Palestinians as his sole, pro bono, client.
“I faced some significant racism as a kid growing up with a unique identity,” he said in an interview with GQ magazine. “Brown skin, long hair for a boy, with a funny-sounding first name like Jagmeet, while going through childhood in a small Canadian city with little diversity. But because of having to deal with racism myself, I became very sensitive to unfairness. It created this appreciation and understanding of the struggles people go through from all walks of life.”
Does he “appreciate and understand” the struggles that his own people, the Sikhs, have experienced in the subcontinent, at the hands of Muslims? Is he aware of the Muslim attacks on Sikh houses of worship, the gurdwaras? Does he know about the murderous attacks on Sikhs by Muslims in Pakistan? Has he heard of the Muslim practitioners of the “Love Jihad,” who manage to kidnap or seduce Sikh girls not just in Pakistan but in the U.K., and then force them to convert to Islam and marry their kidnappers? How incurious Jagmeet Singh seems to be, from the public record, about the travails of his own people.
In the same interview, Singh described his physical struggles as a child who got into skirmishes. These shaped both his political image and his sporting preferences.
“I got picked on a lot. For self-confidence and probably for some self-defense, my parents put me into martial arts and I loved it.”
Singh is also a fan of MMA (mixed martial arts), something which makes him especially attractive for a young and hip community, who see him as more than just charming, “correct” and shallow. For supporters of the New Democratic Party, which he has led for four years, and definitely, for his more than one million followers on social media, he is one of their own.
Young, hip, a climate-conscious bicycle-rider, a social media presence (one million followers and counting), and – it’s the latest fashion in politics – pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. What’s not to like?
As such, he is a role model for all the trendy values of the time. He begins the morning in his minimalistic flat in Burnaby, British Columbia, with a meditation session. He is married to Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, a fashion designer who is 11 years younger, and wears suits, with the look completed by the ever-present turban.
He made headlines when he called his political adversary a “racist,” was thrown out after he refused to recant, and was then suspended from the House of Commons for two days. His policy advocates removing drug possession of any kind from the list of criminal offenses in Canadaand, most importantly, he likes to challenge Trudeau’s polished image whenever he possibly can. For example, when pictures were published in 2019 of a young Trudeau in blackface, Singh demanded explanations. “There’s the nice and smiling Trudeau who we all know,” he said in an interview, “and there’s a different personality who operates behind closed doors.”
In 2020 Singh called Alain Therrien of the Parti Quebecois a “racist” for declining to support a bill charging the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with being guilty of “systemic racism.” Apparently Therrien was unwilling to join in a pile-on against the RCMP, which may have had a handful of “racists” in its ranks but was not, Therrien believed, guilty of “systemic racism,” which charge, if adopted, would have sullied the good name of the entire force. Therrien wasn’t having it. For that, Singh labelled him a “racist.”
Singh is also in favor of decriminalizing not just the possession of marijuana but the possession of all drugs. Are we to assume he would not arrest those who possess – whether to sell it, or to use themselves — cocaine and heroin? Apparently, yes. Were his views on hard drugs to be made into law, it would wreak havoc with the health and safety of the Canadian public.
On social media he presents himself doing a variety of activities, in which he looks more authentic than any of his colleagues, whether he is playing soccer or dancing in a flowery shirt at the Pride Parade. A clip on TikTok from two years ago, where he is seen lip-synching to the sounds of a song by an American rapper, has received more than four million views.
Forget about position papers, detailed studies of the economy, education,, or defense policy; don’t bring up anything too difficult for your youthful admirers. Singh has got so much more to offer than mere statecraft. He’s the meditating, bicycling, soccer playing, dancing-at-Pride-Parade while lip-synching a rap song, thoroughly modern politician. In today’s Canada, Churchill wouldn’t stand a chance.
In an age where sensitivity to issues like ethnicity, immigration, and minority rights are at an all time high, and the power of social media to shape a person’s image is stronger than ever, Singh isn’t just the poster boy of the times, he is the spirit of the era.
Singh’s popularity among immigrants, minorities and young Canadians who think he speaks their language, turns him into a reasonable candidate for Canadian Prime Minister. Like a new version of Barack Obama, if he continues his political ascent from anonymity to the state’s leadership, based on his opinions on political and security issues in the Middle East, it could mean a significant change in Israeli-Canadian relations.
I think the author has overstated Singh’s appeal. While he did win re-election to Parliament, representing the riding of Burnaby in British Columbia, he won only 39% of the vote, not exactly a landslide. Sixty percent of the electorate wanted someone other than Singh. Furthermore, after Singh assumed the leadership of the NDP (National Democratic Party) in 2017, the party’s fortunes have sunk. In the 2019 election, the NDP won 24 seats, down from 44 seats at the 2015 election, a colossal decrease. It was the lowest seat count for the NDP since 2004, and the party was passed by the Bloc Québécois as the third-largest parliamentary party. The NDP lost all but one of its seats in Quebec, where it was suggested that Singh’s Sikhism may have been negatively received by voters in the context of the Quebec ban on religious symbols. Possibly, but more likely, since the NDP also lost seats outside of Quebec, voters in Quebec were, like voters elsewhere in Canada, unimpressed with Singh’s “youthful image-making” – and even less impressed with his political positions including, I allow myself to believe, his attitude toward Israel. And that single outrageous remark he made this year after the killing of the Al-Afzaal family, is sure to haunt him: “Our Canada is a place where you can’t walk down the streets if you wear a hijab because you will be killed.”
Does Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh, really know much about the Sikhs? Does he know how the religion began, as a kind of warrior sect, able to fight back against the Muslims who had conquered much of India? Is he aware of how Muslims, during the Partition, slaughtered tens, and possibly hundreds, of thousands of Sikhs, and how even today in Pakistan, it is dangerous to be a Sikh? In Muslim-dominated Pakistan, Sikhs are often mistreated, and sometimes murdered, by Muslims. Muslims have been known to practice what some call a “Love-Jihad,” by kidnapping Sikh (and Hindu) girls, forcing them to convert to Islam, and then marrying them. And this happens not only in Pakistan, but in the UK as well.
Here’s one recent snapshot of Muslim-Sikh relations:
On a sweltering afternoon last month [May 2018], a man walked into Charanjeet Singh’s grocery store at the entrance of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar and asked for red chilli powder.
As Charanjeet scooped the spice into a plastic bag for his customer, the man shot him several times.
The much-loved peace activist died on his way to the hospital.
According to police, the Pakistan Sikh Council, and Sikh representatives in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces where most Pakistani Sikhs reside, the murder of Charanjeet is the tenth “targeted killing” of a prominent Sikh since 2014 and has stirred unprecedented fear – and fury – among the community’s members, particularly in Peshawar.
“With Charanjeet’s death it is as if the arms of the community have been cut off,” Baba Gurpal Singh, a community spokesperson, told TRT World in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and a frontier town in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), long used as a sanctuary by the Taliban and other militant groups to launch attacks across Pakistan.
Gurpal’s own brother was also murdered in Peshawar in 2014: “People tell me to stay home, to stop doing community work, to not do things that make me visible. But there are very few of us and someone has to work for the community. I just wish I could go on working without fear.”
While violence against religious minorities, particularly Christian and Shia Muslims, has been a painfully familiar story in Pakistan, Sikhs have long been considered one of the country’s most protected minorities. In Peshawar, they have lived peacefully among Muslims for over 250 years, working mostly as traditional healers, and running pharmacies and cosmetics and clothing stores.
But a spate of killings in the last four years has raised worries Sikhs might be the latest target of Pakistan’s religious extremist groups, leaving community members unsure of their future in the country.
Sikhs were not included in last year’s population census and there is no hard data on their numbers but social worker Radesh Singh estimated that more than sixty percent of Peshawar’s 30,000 Sikhs had left for other parts of Pakistan or migrated to neighbouring India in the last four years.
In Pakistan, hundreds of Sikh girls every year are reported to be kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to their abductors. This is what some call “Love Jihad,” that increases the number of Muslims at the expense of Sikhs and Hindus. This “Love Jihad” is also practiced by Muslims in the U.K. In 2018, a report by the Sikh activist organization, Sikh Youth UK, entitled “The Religiously Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of Young Sikh Women Across the UK” (RASE report) made similar allegations of Muslim men targeting Sikh girls for the purposes of conversion.
Do the centuries of Muslim aggression against Sikhs mean anything to Jagmeet Singh? Is he aware that the Sikhs are regarded as Infidels, and thus “the most vile of created beings”(Qur’an 98:6)? Has he heard about the Mughal emperor who tortured and executed two Sikh gurus because they would not convert to Islam? Does he know how many Sikh gurdwaras (temples) have been destroyed by Muslims over the centuries and mosques built over their ruins? Has he any idea of how many Sikhs were killed by Muslims during the Partition in 1947? Does he know about attacks on Sikhs today by Muslims in Pakistan? In the UK?
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