Judea and Ruth Pearl
Reprinted with permission of the International
people continue to be taken hostage and brutally murdered in
Iraq, millions of citizens around the world watch, pained and
deeply concerned about the destiny of civilized society.
have not been exclusively of one nationality or religion, but
indeed are representative of humanity itself: British, South
Korean, Egyptian and American, among others; Catholic, Jewish
pleas of the most recent hostage, Margaret Hassan, the British-born
director of CARE International in Iraq, compel us to call for
an active response to this new and growing form of violence.
More than 150 foreigners have been abducted so far in Iraq,
and over 30 of them killed.
a half years ago, when the world reacted with shock and indignation
to the brutal murder of our son, we were hoping that the lives
of innocent people would never again be used as a bargaining
chip. We also hoped that the civilized world would mobilize
and unite to protect itself against the new strand of evil,
one that boasts in cruelty and ritualizes inhumanity. We were
series of "exhibition killings" proves that the current
wave of world conflict is fundamentally different in character
than anything we have known in the past few centuries. Innocent
human beings are murdered and mutilated by calculated design,
in front of millions of spectators, in the name of religion,
for the sheer purpose of transmitting a message to those deemed
to the Nazis, who labored to hide their atrocities, thus unveiling
an inkling of shame, doubt of fear, the actors in the new wave
of crimes boast openly in their cruelty, secure in faith and
of exhibition killings now threatens to become part of the cultural
norms of the twenty-first century, steadily instilling contempt
toward the lives of others and eroding the human dignity of
each individual in our society. To remain passive or indifferent
in the face of this phenomenon amounts to the committing our
children to irreversible moral perversion.
our civilization we must harness all possible efforts to repel
this hideous practice back to the realm of the inconceivable.
As a start,
the media should exercise responsible judgment on whether and
how they broadcast and publish terrorist messages and imagery.
Giving them voice empowers terrorists with a sense of accomplishment
and increases their appetite for more barbarity. The media should
treat such material as responsibly as it treats bomb-construction
manuals and rape scenes.
leaders of the international community should clearly and unambiguously
define all forms of exhibition killings-the murder of an innocent
person for the purpose of transmitting a grievance-as a distinct
form of crime. The United Nations should declare it a crime
against humanity, with all the legal and moral ramifications
that this entails, regardless of the source of the grievance.
religious leaders of all denominations must condemn these crimes
in religious terms, classifying them as cardinal sins, punishable
by the religion's harshest sanctions, for example, excommunication,
hellfire and damnation.
Muslim clerics in the West should use the Islamic instruments
of Fatwa, Apostasy, Takfir and Fasad (corruption) to exorcise
both the perpetrators of exhibition killing and the clerics
who legitimize it. Secular condemnations, however sincere, are
utterly ineffective, both to the followers of al-Zarqawi and
to Westerners who are laboring to explain Islam as a peaceful
There are scores of Islamic clerics in the West who command
the credentials to officially declare al-Zarqawi an apostate,
that is, one who falsifies the roots of Islam. The fact that
they do not encourages al-Zarqawi's recruiters and supporters
to confuse his ideology of killing with the theology of Islam.
On a larger
level, we can tame the hatred that spawns these crimes by promoting
cross-cultural understanding, and respect for difference in
all countries and at all levels of society. Exhibition killings
affect us all. And it will take all our efforts-both within
the West and the Muslim world-to see them eradicated.
and Ruth Pearl are the parents of Daniel Pearl,
a Wall Street Journal reporter, who was murdered in Pakistan
in 2002. They head the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org).