Via NPR and the AP, according to his son, the leader of the Sikh temple “managed to find a simple butter knife” and died futilely trying to save his congregation from the mass-murdering gunman with it.
Was it a “butter knife?”
Religious tradition requires a male Sikh not only to abjure smoking and drinking and leave his hair uncut, but to carry at all times on his body a ritual sword called the Kirpan. Out of respect for the sensibilities of Western countries in which they’ve settled, many Sikhs have taken to carrying a small ritual knife.
It’s not on the mainstream wires yet, but a website called Sikh24.com writes of “The Hero of Oak Creek:”
Shaheed Bhai Satwant Singh Kaleka was 62 years old. He was the president of the gurdwara at the time and was getting ready to deliver a speech. Page, the shooter, walked in, armed with a 9mm handgun.
Satwant Singh approached him in the lobby and tried to stop him from hurting others and disrespecting Guru Sahib. From what we understand, he attempted to use a kirpan or talwar to attack and tackle the shooter but was shot in the back after a struggle. This is the correct use of a kirpan, protecting the innocent and those that are unable to protect themselves.
He was unable to stop the shooter though and tried to find cover. He died from his injuries within the Gurdwara.
Blood trails, [Amardeep Kaleka, Satwant Singh’s son] continued, indicate that the gunman was “slowed … enough so that other people could get to safety.”
The Hero of Oak Creek, then. Armed with a ritual sword too small for the job.
Earlier last year, there was a controversy in Detroit about whether a 4th-grader could carry a “dull, 3- to 5-inch kirpan.” His principal said yes, the school board said no. Then they said yes. Sort of, mostly.
The blade of the Kirpan must be dull and no longer than two and one-fourth inches long and the ceremonial sword must be worn under clothing and not visible in any way.
Students who violate the rules will be disciplined and may be prohibited from wearing the Kirpan to school in the future.
“Have, on your person, all the time, the five K’s: The Keshas (unshorn hair), the Kirpan (sheathed sword), the Kachhehra (drawers-like garment), the Kanga (comb), the Karha (steel bracelet).”—Rehat Maryada, Ceremony of Baptism or Initiation, Section 6, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV, paragraph (p)
The Kirpan is a ritual and ceremonial blade, but it’s also literally a sword.
According to Sikh theology, it’s for fighting evil, that evil should be fought. An interesting religion. At this point we don’t know what blade exactly Satwant Singh fought evil with, but fight it he did, and in doing so he saved the lives of some of his family and people.
The “gurdwara” was his place of worship and could be translated as temple or church, but in Sikh parlance, it really means “gateway.” And since unlike Hinduism, Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, Godspeed, Shaheed Bhai Satwant Singh Kaleka. May your soul rest in peace.