From a vic­tim of bar­barism to a global in­spi­ra­tion

Sunday Herald - - 29.10.17 PROFILE - BY RUS­SELL LEADBETTER

ON Jan­uary 25, 2002, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported one of its re­porters had gone miss­ing in Pak­istan. Daniel Pearl had not checked in with his edi­tors on the Wed­nes­day evening and had still not been heard from by late the fol­low­ing night.

The pa­per’s par­ent com­pany, Dow Jones, went through of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial chan­nels with the aid of the US and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments in an ef­fort to find Pearl, 38, who had worked for the Jour­nal for 12 years. He had been try­ing to se­cure an in­ter­view with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gi­lani, who was ru­moured to have been seen with the shoe-bomber, Richard Reid. The jour­nal­ist was lured to a restau­rant in Karachi, put in a car and blind­folded, then taken to a re­mote lo­ca­tion.

A group call­ing it­self The Na­tional Move­ment for the Restora­tion of Pak­istani Sovereignty sent two emails to US and Pak­istan-based news or­gan­i­sa­tions claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the kid­nap­ping and ac­cus­ing Pearl of be­ing an Amer­i­can spy. On Fe­bru­ary 22 it was re­ported that Pearl had been ex­e­cuted: a har­row­ing video with footage of his fi­nal mo­ments had been sent to Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties and re­layed to the US con­sulate in Karachi.

Pearl, of Jewish her­itage, was made to de­scribe his fam­ily as “Zion­ist” on cam­era and de­nounce the US be­fore be­ing be­headed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mas­ter­mind of al-Qaeda’s Septem­ber 11 at­tacks, later claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mur­der.

What the world for­got, though, in the af­ter­math of his hor­rific and point­less killing was that Pearl, known as Danny to his friends, was not just a first-rate re­porter, he was also a tal­ented vi­olin­ist. In 2002, his fam­ily and friends es­tab­lished the Daniel Pearl Foundation and his love of mu­sic has been re­flected in the foundation’s Daniel Pearl World Mu­sic Days held through­out Oc­to­ber this year.

The Wall Street Jour­nal de­scribed Pearl as “an out­stand­ing col­league, a great re­porter” and added: “His mur­der is an act of bar­barism that makes a mock­ery of ev­ery­thing Danny’s kid­nap­pers claimed to be­lieve in. They claimed to be Pak­istani na­tion­al­ists, but their ac­tions must surely bring shame to all true Pak­istani pa­tri­ots.”

Pearl’s wife Mar­i­ane, who was preg­nant at the time of the ab­duc­tion, pub­licly con­demned the “act of bar­barism” car­ried out by “evil peo­ple”.

“The mes­sages I have re­ceived from the five con­ti­nents have shown me that a lot of you who don’t even know Danny per­son­ally have come to un­der­stand him as a man,” she added. “Not a hero, not a spy, but an or­di­nary man and great jour­nal­ist who has trav­elled the world to re­veal facts and seek the truth – a value for him as sa­cred as free­dom it­self.”

In July 2002, at a court in Hy­der­abad, four men, in­clud­ing a British-born Is­lamic mil­i­tant, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, were con­victed of Pearl’s mur­der. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is cur­rently sit­ting in Guan­tanamo Bay, pre­par­ing for his 25th pre-trial hear­ing, on charges re­lat­ing to 9/11.

Pearl is one of hun­dreds of jour­nal­ists world­wide who have died for their work. Two weeks ago, the Mal­tese in­ves­tiga­tive blog­ger Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia was killed by a car bomb.

Pearl’s name, and his mis­sion, how­ever, have lived on. In 2007, the British film di­rec­tor Michael Win­ter­bot­tom made A Mighty Heart, based on Mar­i­ane’s mem­oir, with An­gelina Jolie as Mar­i­ane and Dan Fut­ter­man as Daniel.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation was set up to “ad­dress the root causes of this tragedy in the spirit, style and prin­ci­ples that shaped Danny’s work and char­ac­ter”. His prin­ci­ples in­cluded “un­com­pro­mised ob­jec­tiv­ity and in­tegrity; in­sight­ful and un­con­ven­tional per­spec­tive; tol­er­ance and re­spect for peo­ple of all cul­tures; un­shaken be­lief in the ef­fec­tive­ness of ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions; and the love of mu­sic, hu­mor and friend­ship”.

The foundation works to pro­mote cross-cul­tural di­a­logue and un­der­stand­ing, to counter cul­tural and re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance and to cul­ti­vate re­spon­si­ble and bal­anced jour­nal­ism.

After Pearl’s fu­neral his fam­ily sought to in­spire hope and unity by invit­ing peo­ple to ded­i­cate a mu­si­cal event on the day he would have turned 39 – Oc­to­ber 10, 2002. The mu­sic days have now grown to com­prise a full month of world­wide Har­mony For Hu­man­ity con­certs. Since its in­cep­tion, more than 14,200 events in 143 coun­tries have been ded­i­cated to Danny Pearl. Artists who have taken part range from El­ton John, REM and Rickie Lee Jones to Ravi Shankar and vi­olin­ist Itzhak Perl­man – as well as Scot­tish acts such as the Bat­tle­field Band.

Pearl was also re­mem­bered in 2010 when, in the Oval Of­fice, watched by mem­bers of his fam­ily in­clud­ing his seven-year-old son Adam, Pres­i­dent Obama signed into law the Daniel Pearl Free­dom Of The Press Act. It ex­panded the State De­part­ment’s an­nual hu­man-rights re­ports to iden­tify coun­tries that par­tic­i­pate in or con­done at­tacks on jour­nal­ists.

Obama him­self said: “Of­ten­times with­out this kind of at­ten­tion coun­tries and gov­ern­ments feel that they can op­er­ate against the press with im­punity. And we want to send a mes­sage that they can’t. The loss of Daniel Pearl re­minded us of how valu­able a free press is, and it re­minded us that there are those who would go to any length in or­der to si­lence jour­nal­ists around the world.”

Pho­to­graph: AFP/AFP/Getty Im­ages

After his kid­nap in 2002, Daniel Pearl was forced to de­nounce his re­li­gion and his home na­tion be­fore be­ing ex­e­cuted by al-Qaeda

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