Remarks at the House of Lords
Daniel Pearl Dialogue for Muslim/Jewish Understanding
by Judea Pearl
London, June 23, 2004
Two years and four months ago , in a desolated dungeon in Karachi, Pakistan, a young man was looking straight at the the apex of evil and proclaiming his identity: “I am a Jewish American…. My father is Jewish, My mother is Jewish, I am Jewish”. He was then silenced forever.
That young man was my son Danny — a walking sunshine of truth, humor and humanity. An emissary of friendship and goodwill.
A bridge-builder who gave voice to millions of voiceless Muslims in the middle East,
A Journalist who unveiled to millions of readers in the West the human and compassionate faces behind the news.
His murderers schemed to sow fear and division among Danny’s peers but, strangely, with all their technical sophistication, they made a blunder and the outcome turned against them.
The respect that Daniel earned on both sides of the East/West divides, the goodness of his smile, and the sound of his last words became iconic personal reminders to millions of people around this planet that the current wave of terror and hatred is aimed, once again, not at a tribe, a country, or an institute but against the very fabric of civilized society.
Danny’s last words, “I am Jewish”, have assumed a universal dimension, and came to symbolize the freedom of every individual to assert his faith, heritage and identity. These three simple words sing of the majestic capacity of the human spirit to embed the dignity of being different within the oneness of mankind.
Consequently, what emerged from Danny’s tragedy and vividly displayed on the screens of the world’s consciousness was an urgent call for people of all faiths to recognize the dangers threatening civilized society, and to lift our common humanity above the differences that set us apart.
It was this urgent call that compelled my family and I to establish the Daniel Pearl Foundation and to take upon ourselves the task of channeling all the energy and goodwill that Danny’s tragedy has evoked into a single aim: fighting the hatred that took Danny’s life.
Of course we do not have the resources to build museums or move armies, but we have the goodwill of millions of principled people around the world, Christians, Jews and Muslims, Pakistanis, Israelis and Palestinians, Journalists and musicians, who are determined to take a stand for tolerance and humanity.
The Daniel Pearl Dialogue Program for Jewish-Muslim Understanding that we have the privilege to launch today in the UK was initiated by Professor Ahmed and myself out of a joint concern for the deteriorating relationships between the two communities, and based on an unshaken belief that, by building on our common Abrahamic traditions could be improved.
It is very significant that this launch takes place in the Moses room. Moses, who is revered by all three monotheistic religions, is both the liberator and the Law-maker. He understood what many leaders of our time do not, that physical liberation without commitment to life under Law, is not a liberation at all. He understood that, to get rid of slave mentality, in which one blames one’s inconveniences on the others, the oppressor, one must assume responsibility and submit to the rule of Law. He understood that in order to form a free nation, ones that controls its destiny, society must adopt a set of basic principles which remain immutable, regardless of one’s grievances.
No wonder it took the Israelites 40 years before they were ready for entry into the promised land. Today, with internet speeds, we have all the reasons to hope that such cultural transitions could be implementing in 40 months, not 40 years.
Professor Ahmed and I see our mission in this dialogue as that of carving a path of legitimacy for additional dialogues aiming, in the best case, at achieving understanding and, at the very least, acknowledgment of, and familiarity with the other side’s narrative.
We thank you for hosting the launch of this program and we hope for your continuous support in seeing it spread to many communities hereforth.