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'There will be no closure for us until we eradicate hatred'

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February 21, 2003 14:50 IST

'There will be no closure for us until we eradicate hatred'

A year after the gruesome murder of Mumbai-based Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was made known to the world, his abductors and killers have still not been fully identified though some of them, notably Omar Saeed Sheikh, were sentenced to die by a Pakistani court.

Pearl, who visited Karachi to investigate shoebomber Richard C Reid's links in Pakistan, was abducted on January 23, 2002. After threatening e-mails,  the United States government's refusal to negotiate and unsuccessful pleas by the Wall Street Journal, Pearl was murdered. 'My father's Jewish. My mother's Jewish. I'm Jewish,' were the last words he was forced to say before being killed, a grotesque video of which was delieved to US officials in Karachi.

At the height of Operation Enduring Freedom, Pearl had refused to travel to Afghanistan keeping in mind his wife Mariane, who was pregnant at that time. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the birth of his son Adam.

Pearl, a jazz enthusiast who played the piano and violin, will be remembered on October 10, his birthday, which is now being celebrated as Daniel Pearl Music Day.

His father, Dr Judea Pearl, who heads the Daniel Pearl Foundation instituted by him, spoke to Senior Correspondent Kanchana Suggu about the Foundation, what it hopes to achieve and life after Danny.

Tell us about the worldwide memorial service that you have called for on February 21.

I have simply suggested that every community planning to hold a service for Daniel Pearl should have an inter-faith ceremony. If a synagogue is planning a ceremony, it should also invite a temple and a mosque to join in the prayer for a more sane and humane world free of hatred.

What will you and your family be doing on February 21?

We are going into seclusion. We will be with each other and say a prayer in a local synagogue.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation started by you has organised several events already. What are your future plans?

We have a lot of support from thousands of people in terms of money and goodwill. Me, my wife and Danny's two sisters work 24 hours a day for the Foundation. But we haven't accomplished enough. We are thinking of devoting more efforts to international journalism. I am thinking of a conference that would allow journalists from all over the world to meet each other and discuss important issues. I want it to be a moving conference that discusses conflicts in the Middle-East, India, Pakistan, Greece. We are still structuring the whole idea.

Is The Wall Street Journal supporting the Foundation? In what way?

We have received moral support from The Wall Street Journal. Not any financial support. We haven't started doing any fund-raising yet. When we have concrete ideas, funds will also come. We have eagerness of the Muslim world to work with us. We have many Pakistanis too who are working with us in the area of education and culture. We also have lot of support from the journalistic world. We are in touch with Danny's colleagues and they help us in the form of advice. We also have a great source of inspiration and that is Danny himself.

Is Mariane Pearl involved in the Foundation?

Yes, she is on our board of directors. But right now, she is busy writing a book on Danny.

Do you think enough efforts have been undertaken by the United States government to bring Mr Pearl's murderers to book?

I don't know what else could have been done. They do speak to Pakistani authorities and they do try to press that the wheels of justice should move forward. To tell you the truth, I don't understand political science. I'm an electrical engineer. I am not personally involved in the case. Mariane is more involved in that. She keeps track of who is apprehended, who is at large. She knows all the details of the case.

What would you call a final closure to this case?

There are two issues. One is justice. All the people who are responsible for Danny's kidnapping and murder have still not been punished. That is now at a standstill. There will be no closure for us until we eradicate hatred and fight the ideologies behind them. We want to fight international terrorism and the kind of culture that encourages accusation instead of responsibility and truth. That is the kind of culture being supported in Europe. Anti-American sentiment is rampant in Europe.

What about anti-Jewish sentiment? Mr Pearl may have been killed because of his Jewish origins.

The first thing we should do is expose it and talk about it, which hasn't been done yet. European writers ignore it, even Pakistanis ignore it. They talk about Danny's murder as if it is an act committed by a bunch of fanatics. But actually there is anti-Jew sentiment, which is more widespread than we would like to admit. Once we admit it, world leaders should condemn it. No world leader with the exception of President Bush has condemned anti-semitism. There are many anti-racist world leaders who haven't said anything. I am still waiting for several world leaders to pick up the microphone and denounce such acts.

Do you ever remember advising your son not to take risks as a journalist?

In the late 1990s, Danny was considering going to Iraq. My wife is originally from Iraq. We were worried about his safety then. We were also concerned about his covering Pakistan. He also refused to go to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks because of safety concerns. But we always believed he wouldn't be what he is if we interfered. I don't think Danny took risks. He always believed that journalists were somewhat protected. 

Design: Dominic Xavier


Kanchana Suggu in Mumbai