Slain journalist’s father’s goal is to reverse cycle of hatred
February 11, 2006
Judea Pearl isn’t vengeful toward the Islamic extremists who slit the throat of his son Daniel Pearl, and is instead seeking revenge by preaching a message of peace.
By Steve Peoples
Journal Staff Writer
BRISTOL — Four years ago, his son was brutally murdered in a Pakastani dungeon before an audience of millions.
Yesterday, Judea Pearl flew 3,000 miles to avenge his son, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in a dark lecture hall before an audience of 150 college students.
Judea Pearl, a middle-aged Jewish computer science professor from Southern California, is consumed by revenge. It has become his life.
But he does not target those who slit his son’s throat. Pearl blames their motivator.
“Hatred killed our son. And hatred I shall fight for the rest of my life,” he told a packed room of Roger Williams University students last night, a smiling image of his son projected on a huge screen behind him.
Daniel Pearl, 38, was kidnapped in Pakistan on Jan. 23, 2002. The South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal was on his way to an interview with a Muslim fundamentalist leader.
Six days later he was beheaded by a group of Muslim extremists.
A week after the gruesome crime was broadcast across the globe through the Internet, Judea Pearl and his family created the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the hate that has made kidnapping and murder virtually an everyday occurrence in the Middle East.
Since then, Pearl has made more public speeches than he can remember. He said he averages one a month. He often appears with Akbar Ahmed, a Muslim professor from American University and an outspoken critic of Islamic terrorism.
In an interview before last night’s address, Pearl condemned the recent rash of violence waged by Muslims angered by cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad published in newspapers around the world.
He said that some Western newspapers should not have published cartoons of the Muslim prophet — an act deemed a violation of Islamic law by many Muslims — but that the violent reaction is baffling. At least 10 people are believed dead across the Middle East and Southern Asia following recent clashes prompted by the cartoon first printed last September in a Danish newspaper.
“There are more important things than pictures and symbols, and this is life itself. When you begin to worship life, you honor [the Prophet Muhammad],” Pearl said from the love seat of his Bristol hotel room. “He will be honored by his fellows and their behavior. If their behavior is respectful of life and of others, he will be honored. Cartoons will not tarnish that.”
He said he has been following closely news of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll’s abduction, though he has not been in contact with her family. He said Carroll and his son both worked to portray the Muslim world fairly.
“Danny had hundreds of friends in the Muslim world and it didn’t protect him. He gave them a voice. The same thing with Jill Carroll. She gave them a voice; she actually argued for their side and it didn’t protect her,” Pearl said. “We are dealing with lunatics. I don’t even blame them. They are lunatics.”
Pearl said that he partially faulted news outlets for airing terrorist videos.
“The terrorists are after two things: to humiliate America and to weaken America,” he said. “We and Al-Jazeera, give them all the bandwidth to do that. I’m for total blackout of all terrorist produced material. . . . That is how to end terrorism, exhibition killings.”
Even when discussing his son’s death, Pearl speaks with a certain peace. He laughs often.
The artificial-intelligence expert and amateur poet said he has simply accepted his new life mission.
“I cannot betray the opportunity that history has bestowed on me unwillingly. History gave me two things: a tragedy and an opportunity. If I betray the opportunity, all I’m left with is tragedy,” he said.
The Daniel Pearl Foundation promotes its namesake’s values: journalism, music, and fairness, according to his father. Each year on Daniel Pearl’s birthday, the foundation sponsors hundreds of concerts spanning 60 countries. The organization also brings Muslim journalists to American newsrooms to witness a free press in action.
Pearl was brought to Roger Williams last night as part of the university’s “Reason and Respect: The Civil Discourse Lecture Series.”
He said his efforts are for the greater good.
“I don’t do it for therapy, I don’t need therapy. I do it because I really believe that we can make a difference,” he said. “There’s a potential here, the symbol of Daniel Pearl that ought to be exploited to make a difference by bringing people together. There are very few symbols today of people who earn respect on both sides of the East/West divides.”
And as scores of college students learned last night, Judea Pearl wants help in the mission to avenge his son.
“Look at me and follow my footsteps,” he said. “Play the fiddle and make friends.”
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