From The Wall Street Journal
Opinion: July 17, 2002
* An Urdu translation of this piece appeared in the News Section of Pakistani daily Jang, July 17, 2002.
Turn Tragedy Into Opportunity
By Judea Pearl
An open letter to the people of Pakistan:
When my son, Daniel Pearl, was murdered in Karachi earlier
this year, I received many letters from Pakistanis expressing
shame and anger at the perpetrators of this horrific
crime. I was told in these letters that the majority
of the Pakistani people condemn the murder and view
Danny as a symbol of their country's longstanding problem
"Daniel has become a mission," said one writer.
"I am outraged, ashamed and humiliated of this
evil act," wrote another. "The people responsible
for your son's death might claim to be Muslims but they
are actually beasts and have no religion."
The verdict issued Monday in Hyderabad casts these
personal expressions into a collective moral statement
of historical significance. This was the first verdict
since Sept. 11 to convict and sentence international
terrorists in a court of law. It thus proves to the
world that Pakistan is not merely a place where people
fear and abhor terrorism, but also a place that possesses
the legal muscle to subdue terrorism and secure justice
and dignity for its people.
Now that the first trial is over and a verdict is out,
I would like to tell you a few things about my son,
Danny, including things that have not been made explicit
in the press. In particular, I would like to explain
who Danny was, why the world has been so shocked by
his death, why he has become a symbol, and what he is
a symbol of.
If one reads the many stories written by Danny and
about Danny's life and work (http://www.saja.org) one
finds that his death shocked the world not because he
was an innocent victim of terrorism, but because of
the irreconcilable irony of his tragedy: Danny was a
perfect mouthpiece for both the West and the Muslim
worlds to understand each other. His lively prose, honesty,
and sensitivity to other cultures earned him the respect
of all who met him and made him a perfect emissary of
goodwill and understanding.
Additionally, Danny embodied qualities that some close-minded
people have found hard to accept. He showed that an
American can faithfully and unjudgmentally present anti-Western
points of view.
He showed that a journalist need not be considered
a "spy," because honest and accurate information
can benefit both providers and receivers. He showed
that being Jewish does not mean being anti-Islam. For
the past seven years, Danny's articles in The Wall Street
Journal served in fact as Islam's best advocates; they
showed readers the hardships and aspirations of people
in Islamic countries, as well as the intricate nuances
of their religion.
Thus, when he declared to his captors: "I am Jewish!"
what he said in fact was: "I respect Islam precisely
because I am Jewish, and I expect you to respect me
and my faith precisely because you are good Muslims."
In short, Danny personified tolerance, humanity and
dialogue, and his death turned him into a symbol for
Not surprisingly, Danny's death has generated an enormous
awakening of goodwill world-wide, as witnessed by thousands
of letters, emails, donations and ideas on how to prevent
such tragedies in the future and make the world a better
place. In an effort to channel this energy into constructive
tracks, Daniel's family, friends and colleagues have
established a foundation in his honor (http://www.danielpearlfoundation.org).
The Daniel Pearl Foundation aims to continue Danny's
mission, to create connections among people of different
cultures, to reduce cultural and religious hatred, to
encourage responsible and creative journalism, and to
enrich people's lives through music. We have recently
been fortunate to enlist Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder
and president of Edhi Foundation, onto our honorary
board, and we plan to collaborate with your schools
and universities to initiate cross-cultural programs
in the near future.
We will need your help and trust, and we are hopeful
that the people of Pakistan will join us in turning
Danny's tragedy into an opportunity. Never before have
the ears of good people world-wide been so attentive
to Pakistani voices of moderation. Never before have
the hands of the West been stretched so warmly for Pakistanis
to join in the promotion of humanity and tolerance.
As one Karachi paper put it: "He died because
Pakistan's enemies could not bear to see the country
retake the course of tolerance and moderation that its
founding father envisaged."
I call upon you today to prove those enemies wrong
and to make the voices of tolerance and moderation heard
loud and clear.
The loss of Danny will forever tear my heart. But I
can think of no greater consolation than seeing your
children some day pointing at Danny's picture and saying:
"This is the kind of person I want to be."
Mr. Pearl is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.