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Published: Saturday, 2/23/2002

One more terrorist victim

The gruesome death of journalist Daniel Pearl at the hands of kidnappers in Pakistan adds another grim statistic to the lengthening roll of victims of extremists spreading terror and death in the name of Islam.

While the death of a journalist is not any more important than that of any other terrorist victim, Mr. Pearl's abduction and brutal videotaped execution should serve to further confirm to the world the moral bankruptcy of a cause that purports to be religious, yet violates every civilized creed.

Mr. Pearl, 38, was the Wall Street Journal's bureau chief for South Asia. He disappeared Jan. 23 in Karachi after meeting with a contact he believed could supply information on alleged ties between Pakistani extremists and Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a Miami-bound airliner with explosives packed in his shoes.

In that sense, Mr. Pearl was carrying out a task in the same manner as any reporter eager to nail down a good story. But he was not, his colleagues said, one of those known in the profession as a “cowboy,” who would take excessive risks. Indeed, he told friends that he had no desire to venture into the turmoil of neighboring Afghanistan because his wife, Mariane, a French journalist, was expecting a child.

Nevertheless, those who gather the news anywhere in today's violent world live increasingly dangerous lives. Thirty-seven journalists were killed in the line of duty last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Speaking for the group, Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press reporter kidnapped in Lebanon and held for seven years, said, “This was a cruel and pointless murder of a man who spent his life giving a voice to the voiceless. It served no purpose, political or otherwise. It gained his killers nothing, not even publicity for their views. On the contrary, it further discredits those who try to justify violence in the name of religion.”

Terrorists do not seem to comprehend that their barbaric acts will only backfire on them, further evidence that the world is dealing with an enemy that has veered outside the conventions of civilization.

As an American and a Jew, Mr. Pearl was a handy target for a sinister force blinded by extreme hatred and fueled by a simplistic misreading of religion. His killers have made a fundamental mistake by dividing a complex world into a simple dichotomy - us versus them.

Mr. Pearl was a newspaper reporter working on a story, not a spy for the CIA, the Mossad, or anyone else. His death only reinforces the determination of civilized people everywhere to rid the planet of those who murdered him.



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