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True Muslims Would Release Pearl at Once

Commentary

February 06, 2002|KHALID KHAWAJA, SHAHEEN SEHBAI and MANSOOR IJAZ | Khalid Khawaja, a former official of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, worked closely with Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s. Shaheen Sehbai, a Pakistani citizen, is editor of the News International, Pakistan's largest English language daily. Mansoor Ijaz, an American Muslim of Pakistani origin, is a New York financier.

As we make this plea for Danny Pearl's unconditional release, he is believed to be alive. We pray he will be reunited with his pregnant wife without delay. Pearl's kidnapping has hit each of us in very personal ways because we are at once his friends and his partners in trying to bridge the gap of understanding between puritanical Islam and the West.

Pearl came to know radical Islam's inner sanctum in Pakistan through us. We are witness that through his dialogue with Muslim fundamentalists, the world was beginning to learn more about puritanical Islam's evolutionary track and the people shaping it--knowledge that would help us all bridge the misconceptions about a great monotheistic religion.

With each day that passes without word on his condition or whereabouts, we feel compelled to remind Pearl's captors of the irretrievable damage they are doing to themselves, their cause and their religion if he is not immediately released. Kidnappers are often motivated by money, religion, politics or just plain revenge. Our joint plea, coming from widely differing perceptions--those of a Muslim fundamentalist, a secular Pakistani journalist and an American Muslim businessman--is to remind Pearl's captors that justice is blind to their motives. To get justice, you must offer it. Releasing an innocent man who is doing a vital job not only would show the kidnappers' righteousness, it would pave the road for a better understanding of the motivations that drive their anger and frustration.

What better way for the world to understand the agenda and ideology of puritanical Islam than for its followers to collectively get involved in the effort to secure Pearl's release. If Harkat ul Moujahedeen, Jamaat ul Fuqra and its leader, Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, or other puritan Muslim groups are not complicit in the kidnapping, then they should stand up and be counted in the fight to obtain his freedom.

The Koran is very clear about the taking of innocent life:

"Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the Earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind" [Sura Maida, V.32].

Save all of mankind by saving Pearl. Only then can the world know you are true Muslims and begin to understand your grievances. In doing so, you will enable others to do the same. It would be just, for example, to call on U.S. authorities to end an extradition request for Sheik Gilani if Pearl is released unharmed.

If the motivation is money or an individual's or group's revenge for the loss of family members in the U.S. war on terrorism, the captors should seek redress through Qisas, Islam's form of compensation for forgiving the criminal act, rather than resorting to mob-style tactics. Pearl's employer already has offered a forum for expressing political and even personal grievances.

If the motivation behind Pearl's kidnapping is the murky politics of a government agency or rogue elements within the establishment seeking redress for decisions of the state to fight against terrorists, harming Pearl will only deepen the resolve to root them out and extinguish their politics. The kidnappers may believe that they have embarrassed Pakistan's government or taken its newfound relations with the U.S. hostage with their deeds, but instead they've driven the states closer together in the common objective to defeat them.

The kidnappers may believe they have toppled another symbol of U.S. power--the Wall Street Journal--by holding one of its reporters hostage. But in reality, they have strengthened its resolve--and that of every other news outlet in the free world--to ensure that a true picture of their intent and actions is made known.

The kidnappers may believe they have furthered their jihad against the West and all it represents, but the jihad was over before it started in the very act of taking hostage an innocent man who was explaining to the world who they are and what they want.

It's time they let Pearl go back to his family.

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