- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

U.S. Muslim leaders yesterday condemned the killing of American reporter Daniel Pearl by his kidnappers in Pakistan, saying Islam gives immunity to journalists and needs independent information.
"Journalism is a universal profession, and this kind of action stops the free flow of information in any part of the world. Whoever is responsible, it didn't do their cause any good," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR).
The council, which condemned the abduction when it took place Jan. 23 in Karachi, Pakistan, had issued a call for Mr. Pearl's release.
"This is clearly a criminal action and has nothing to do with religion," said Farzad Darui, manager of the Islamic Center in Washington. "A journalist is a civilian and therefore an innocent."
On Thursday, the State Department confirmed the death of Mr. Pearl, 38, who was South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.
Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, said traditionally Islam has given "perfect immunity" to journalists and diplomats, especially in times of regional conflicts.
"We were praying all through this that we wouldn't hear this news," he said. "It was shocking."
Mr. Pearl was kidnapped while trying to meet with Muslim extremists to write a story on Richard C. Reid, the suspected "shoe bomber."
Reid had tried to set off explosives hidden in his shoes on a flight from London to Miami in December. A British convert to Islam, Reid had spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Four days after Mr. Pearl vanished, an e-mail message sent to Pakistani and international media showed photos of the reporter in captivity, bound and with a gun pointed at his head.
The e-mail message demanded that the United States repatriate Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan who are being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A second e-mail message sent Jan. 30 said the reporter would be killed in 24 hours.
The Muslim world today is dominated mostly by state-run news organs, and its independent media are as nationalist as those in any native country.
When the worldwide Organization of the Islamic Conference issued its "Cairo Declaration" on human rights in 1990, it did not cite press freedom but aknowledged that "information is a vital necessity to society."
Information, however, had to be used "according to the norms of Islamic Sharia," or law, which is interpreted in widely different ways across the Muslim world.
The declaration said information could not be used to "violate sanctities and the dignity of the Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith."
During Mr. Pearl's orderal, his captors said he was a spy. But Mr. Darui of the Muslim Center pointed out that even the Taliban called women in Afghanistan who did not wear veils spies.
"The accusation is entirely baseless," Mr. Darui said. "In Islam you need a high degree of evidence for any accusation."
In the United States, he said, "we assume reporters are unbiased in doing their story."
He said they should be treated with the same "civility" everywhere in the world.

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