Apologize to Father of Daniel Pearl
In a unique event, Professor Judea Pearl, father of slain journalist
Daniel Pearl, (Right in Picture) engaged in a dialogue with Muslim
Scholar Akbar Ahmed at the University of Pittsburgh's Bellefield
Auditorium on Oct, 23.
"In Pearl I saw great compassion," said Ahmed, former
high commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain and chair of Islamic
Studies at American University. "Here is a man whose son
has been killed in the most brutal of ways, and through this tragedy
he saw a need for the bridges of dialogue."
Pearl is president of the Danny Pearl Foundation, established
in 2002, to "continue Danny's mission of dialogue and friendship,
and to address the root causes of his murder." Daniel Pearl
was a Wall Street Journal correspondent killed by Islamic extremists
in Pakistan on Feb. 21, 2002, after being kidnapped in January.
Last Thursday marked Judea Pearl's first dialogue, and some members
of the Jewish and Muslim community expressed apprehension about
such an effort. Pearl and Ahmed were uncertain of who would show
up for the event, but were received by more than 400 audience
members, curious to learn what the speakers would share with one
"Hatred took the life of my son and hatred I will fight till
the end of my life," Pearl said, acknowledging his son's
death as a reason for dialogue.
also revealed one of the key reasons he agreed to come to Pittsburgh
and talk with Ahmed. Ahmed was the only Muslim author I read who
has expressed empathy for the sense of siege Israelis feel,"
Pearl said. "Empathy is the essence of understanding and
prerequisite to dialogue."
Ahmed connects the statement in his book, Islam Under Siege with
the two most frequently repeated of God's 99 names, Rahman and
Rahim (Beneficent and Merciful), to express the compassionate
nature of Islam.
Members of the audience spoke out against religious hatred. Faizan
Haq, secretary-general of the Pakistani American Congress, offered
his apologies for not being there as a Pakistani and a human being
to speak out against Pearl's murder. He also pointed to the violence
perpetuated toward Muslims in the United States.
Umar Ghuman, a member of the National Parliament of Pakistan,
said “On behalf of the people of Pakistan I beg for forgiveness
for the murder of your son, Danny Pearl." Ghuman and Haq
encouraged Pakistanis and Americans to move forward in dialogue
towards a greater understanding of each other.
According to Ahmed, the apologies speak of the true nature of
Islam compassion and justice.
In a personal interview Pearl shared his thoughts about the apologies
of Ghuman and Haq.
"I am grateful to these brave officials for making public
statements which, to me, represent sincere commitment to educate
the people toward tolerance and acceptance, Pearl said."
In addition, Pearl wanted clerics in Pakistan to speak out against
the death of his son and make the punishment for such crimes,
which is "hell" in the afterlife, clear to their parishioners.
Ahmed said the murder of innocent people like Danny Pearl is never
acceptable in Islam.
"You have the freedom to interpret your religion any way
you want, but you have an obligation to interpret it in a way
that would benefit mankind," Pearl said.
David Shtulman, executive director of The American Jewish Committee
and organizer of the event, said it offered a unique opportunity
for audience members. "People had a chance to speak, but
also listen. People heard each other through Akbar and Judea in
a way they normally are unable to hear one another," he said.
Eleanor Loftis, an audience member, apologized on behalf of the
Catholic Church and stated the slaughter of Jews and Muslims in
the name of God and religion throughout history was wrong. Ahmed
and Pearl had a follow-up discussion at the Pittsburgh Press Club
the following morning.
Pearl and Ahmed are advocates for a two state solution in Israel,
they do no not believe it will significantly decrease the violence
in the Muslim World. Ahmed asked the audience to consider the
situation in Israel and how it will affect Muslims.
"Though peace in Israel is important, let's say today both
societies are at peace," Ahmed said. "Do you think that
will make any difference in the violence and murders in Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Indonesia and other Muslim nations?"
According to Ahmed the answer is no, the violence will still continue.
Dialogue, compassion and justice for the dispossessed including
the people of Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and the Balkans are
the only ways to squelch it.
Interest in this type of dialogue has been shown from cities across
the United States, including Washington D.C., Detroit and San
Francisco. There has been talk of continuing this dialogue in
countries such as Pakistan and Egypt.
In response to the question on the purpose of dialogue now, Shtulman
said, "Some things take a long time to accomplish but just
because they will not be completed in your life time does not
mean that you don't start the effort."