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Thread: Revisiting A Tragedy

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    Revisiting A Tragedy

    Revisiting a tragedy
    HBO documentary follows Daniel Pearl's path to death

    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll...RT18/610090329

    By MIKE KELLY
    SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
    10/9/2006

    Tomorrow would have been Daniel Pearl's 43rd birthday. But now the day marks the premiere of a documentary on HBO that looks at the life and grisly death of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded by Islamic militants in Pakistan four years ago.

    The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl follows the oddly parallel paths of Pearl and the man who orchestrated his kidnapping, Omar Sheikh, a Londoner of Pakistani descent. After 9/11, the men's paths intersected in Pakistan in early 2002, with tragic consequences for the American reporter.

    Among the similarities noted in the film is that both Pearl and Sheikh came from privileged backgrounds, were well-educated, and were idealists in their own ways. And both hoped to change the world, but in very different ways.

    The 80-minute film was produced by filmmakers Ahmed A. Jamal of Pakistan and Ramesh Sharma of India, and its narrator is CNN's Christiane Amanpour, a friend of Pearl. The filmmakers were able to gain access to many of the key figures in the reporter's kidnapping and murder, including Pakistani police and intelligence officials as well as Islamic leaders with ties to extreme religious groups, including the Taliban.

    Growing up in California, Pearl was an avid athlete and musician. A classically trained violinist, he later took up the guitar and fiddle and played for a time with a group called the Cosmic Gypsies, a folk-rock jam band.

    While majoring in communications at Stanford University, he developed an interest in international issues and human rights, and after a stint at a small Massachusetts newspaper, Pearl was hired by the Wall Street Journal in 1990.

    By 1996 he was the Journal's Middle East correspondent, based in London and Paris. He met his future wife, Mariane, in Paris and the couple moved to India, where Pearl headed the newspaper's South Asia bureau.

    He specialized in exploring Islamic culture, and his articles tried to give westerners a more nuanced understanding of the Middle East and its complex politics. His colleagues jokingly referred to him as "Danny of Arabia" because of his empathy for the plight of Muslims in the Middle East.

    Meanwhile, Omar Sheikh was completing his own transformation from elite student to accomplished jihadi. Born and reared in London by middle-class parents, he attended the prestigious London School of Economics, where he studied math and economics. He was also a local chess champion and prided himself on his success in the unlikely sport of arm-wrestling.

    During a mission to help Muslim refugees in Bosnia, Sheikh rubbed elbows with militants from all parts of the Islamic world, and he began to think in more anti-Western terms. Later, he received training in militant camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and when the U.S. responded to the attacks of 9/11, he saw that as a declaration of war against Islam.

    "He was not an illiterate jihadi whose mind had been captured by the mullahs," says Jamal, one of the film's producers. "He was a very bright, Oxford-material boy, overturning the notion that education is the solution to problems of terrorism. In his case, he was a formidable terrorist precisely because he was so well-educated."

    After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pearl began looking into the financing of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, using the Journal's well-established investigative technique of "following the money" to get to the root of a story. He was trying to track down a religious leader called Sheikh Gillani, whom he suspected of helping to fund the 9/11 attacks.

    He was lured to the Pakistani city of Karachi by Omar Sheikh, who posed as an intermediary who could help the reporter arrange an interview with Gillani. Pearl left his pregnant wife at the home of a friend and went to meet Sheikh. It was the last time he was seen publicly.

    Subsequent efforts by the State Department, the FBI, and the local police to find Pearl were complicated by the fact that Pakistani intelligence agents were suspected of cooperating with the kidnappers.

    Weeks later, it was confirmed that Pearl has been murdered when a gruesome videotape showing his beheading was sent to news outlets. Not long after that, Omar Sheikh and three accomplices were arrested, tried, and sentenced in Pearl's disappearance. Sheikh was sentenced to hang, and the accomplices received 25-year prison terms.

    But Sheikh's sentence has yet to be carried out. He has appealed, and a hearing on the appeal has been delayed more than 30 times.

    The HBO documentary carries considerable emotional impact, heightened by home movies showing Pearl as a child, interviews with his widow and other family members, and a haunting musical score, some of which consists of songs played by Pearl himself.

    Much of what's in the movie has been reported earlier, but there is at least one terrible twist to the story that's not widely known.

    According to those involved in the kidnapping, the initial plan had been to release Pearl after what was basically intended as a propaganda stunt. But before his release, a deal was struck with a group of Arab terrorists who essentially "bought" Pearl from his kidnappers for $50,000.

    His new captors had different plans for the American journalist. They showed up at the compound where Pearl was being held with long swords and a video camera, and after forcing Pearl to record statements about his Jewish heritage, four men held him down and slaughtered him.

    The man who wielded the sword is said to have been Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and the No. 3 man in al-Qaeda. He is currently in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with 9/11 and other terrorist acts against the United States.

    Pearl's widow, who gave birth to a son 4 1/2 months after her husband's death, has written a book about her husband called A Mighty Heart (Scribner, 288 pages, $13), which is being made into a feature film starring Angelina Jolie, and she's going on with life as best she can.

    "I see happiness as an act of resistance," she says in the film. "My resistance to bitterness is my resistance to terrorism."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Documentary on Pearl’s murder released

    http://www.pakistanlink.com/Headlines/Oct06/08/12.htm

    By Khalid Hasan
    10/9/2006

    WASHINGTON: ‘The Journalist and the Jihahdi’, a powerful documentary film on the murder of Daniel Pearl and the role played in it by Omar Sheikh, a Briton of Pakistani extraction, was screened here to an invited audience at the French embassy on Thursday.

    Omar Sheikh has been in a Pakistani jail awaiting the outcome of his appeal against his death sentence for murdering the American journalist.

    The 90-minute film, shot in Pakistan and elsewhere, has been jointly directed and produced by Ahmed A Jamal from Pakistan and Ramesh Sharma from India, both of whom live in England. Jamal has received numerous awards for his films, including ‘Who Will Throw the First Stone’, ‘The Beach Boys of Sri Lanka’ and ‘The Dancing Girls of Lahore and Iran — the Other Storyy’.

    Sharma has also won several awards and his work includes documentaries such as ‘Afghanistan — the Taliban Years and Beyondd’ and ‘A Faith in Exile — Afghanistann’.

    The Journalist and the Jihadi will be screened on the US TV channel HBO next week. It is narrated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

    Sharma said, “The story of Daniel Pearl and Omar Sheikh is as much the story of our times as it is the story for all times. It is as much about a clash of two ideologies as it is about two passionate individuals with disparate views of the world.” The documentary explores forces that led to the tragedy through words of Pearl’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as FBI agents and State Department employees involved in negotiations for Pearl’s release, plus those who knew Sheikh well, including former schoolmates.

    Those interviewed include French maverick writer and “philosopher” Bernard-Henri Levy, Pakistani police official Khalid Khawaja, a shadowy figure with links to radical organisations, the late Maulana Shamsi of the Binori Mosque in Karachi, Daniel Pearl’s father Judea Pearl, his mother, his wife Marianne, his Wall Street Journal colleague and friend Asra Nomani and several others.

    Pearl, who was appointed the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia correspondent, moved to Karachi a day after 9/11 to focus on Al Qaeda, and the financing and organisation of the terror network. Director Jamal, asked about his motivation for making the film, said, “Personally, I was attracted to the story way back when Omar Sheikh was picked up in India. He was not an illiterate jihadi whose mind had been captured by the Mullahs. He was a very bright, Oxford-material boy, overturning the notion that education is the solution to problems of terrorism. In his case, he was a formidable terrorist precisely because he was so well-educated.”

    According to the moviemakers, the lives of Pearl and Sheikh converged in Pakistan in late 2001 and early 2002. Pearl was on the trail of Islamic “spiritual” leader Sheikh Gillani, who he believed was involved in the financing al of Al Qaeda. Pearl was introduced to Omar Sheikh, who promised to get him the interview with Gillani, but that was a trap. Pearl went to a Karachi tea place to meet his contact, from where he was kidnapped. His wife Marianne was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son several months after her husband’s murder. Although Omar Sheikh has been convicted of Pearl’s murder, it is now believed that it was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Al Qaeda’s No 3, who murdered Pearl. The American journalist, who was a Jew and was proud of it, was beheaded and his body was cut into 10 pieces and buried at the place where he was murdered in a Karachi suburb.

    Omar Sheikh’s trial, along with that of three accomplices, began in June 2002. The hearing of his appeal against his hanging has been postponed as many as 33 times. Some believe that this has been done because it is feared that he might reveal information implicating a certain Pakistani agency.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    HBO probes Daniel Pearl murder

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articl...1_%5BFeed%5D-1

    By Irv Letofsky
    Sun Oct 8, 2006 4:22pm ET

    LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There isn't much pleasant entertainment coming out of that war on terrorism. And in these 90 minutes on HBO, you also can count on it to be disturbing -- "The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl" is a carefully assembled documentary of another horror of our time.

    From the media coverage, we know plenty about Pearl, the persistent Wall Street Journal reporter who set up an important interview that never was with a supposed financier for al Qaeda in Karachi. It was a setup, and Pearl instead was kidnapped and hacked into 10 pieces. The Jihadi of the title didn't get away with it, not so far. Omar Sheikh is awaiting hanging; his three accomplices each received 25 years in prison.

    There's not much personal connection between the two men except violent death. Both came from comfortable circumstances and were well educated -- Pearl at Stanford, Sheikh at the London School of Economics. We get a strong sense of Pearl from his Cuban-Dutch-Baptist wife, Mariane (who had their son 4-1/2 months after his killing), his folks, his editors and colleagues and Pakistani officials, some of them quite excellent sources.

    But director-producers Ahmed A. Jamal and Ramesh Sharma shortchange us on Sheikh and his radicalization. This is pretty much a solid study, but these bloodthirsty radicals seldom make for easy sources, thank you.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    In a grim documentary, widow offers ray of hope

    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepu...goody1008.html

    Oct. 8, 2006 12:00 AM

    Near the end of The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl, Pearl's widow stands defiant.

    "I see happiness as an act of resistance," says Mariane Pearl, her words playing over video of her pushing her son - the son her husband never saw - in a swing. "My resistance to bitterness is my resistance to terrorism."

    She's a better person than most, then.

    It's impossible to watch the HBO documentary, about the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Pakistan in 2002, without working up a sense of outrage. It's a tale not only of loss, but of waste - a life, so much promise, simply wasted, thrown away. And that's not just true of Pearl.

    The jihadi of the title is Omar Sheikh, British-born and educated at the London School of Economics. He studied applied mathematics and economics and grew to embrace radical Islam. He orchestrated Pearl's kidnapping, was arrested in Pakistan, convicted and sentenced to hang. (His appeal has been delayed 33 times.)

    Part of the film's intent is to show how similar the two men's early lives were, how they diverged and how, tragically, they came together. It's not entirely successful on that front.

    We learn that Sheikh was inspired by the fatwa imposed on Salmon Rushdie and the war in Bosnia - in fact, he traveled to Bosnia and was encouraged to move on to Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be trained as a warrior.

    There's footage of Sheikh in school, where he nursed a liking for chess and arm wrestling - one observer notes that it's the perfect mental-physical combination for a control freak. You can't help looking in the videos for clues to what he would become, but besides an obvious intensity, nothing is evident.

    What's lacking is something that's not really fair to expect. If only we could hear in Sheikh's words how he became so radicalized, so vehement in his beliefs. (There is brief footage of him being interviewed in a hospital bed after being wounded in India in 1994, but he merely declines to express any remorse for his actions.)

    How does someone with so much promise go so horribly wrong? What goes into making someone think that the murder of innocent people is a justifiable method for spreading his beliefs? The question may be impossible to answer, but it's the key to trying to understand so much of what is going on in the world.

    Pearl, who moved with his wife to Pakistan the day after Sept. 11 to begin covering the story behind those attacks, had long been seeking an interview with an Islamic spiritual leader for a story on the financing of al-Qaida. Finally, a contact named Bashir said he could get him in touch. Through a series of friendly e-mails, Pearl grew to trust Bashir - who was in reality Sheikh. Pearl disappeared on Jan. 23, 2002. His kidnappers sent photos of him being held at gunpoint.

    The search for Pearl and his captors is gripping, playing like a true-crime drama - only with obviously more-tragic consequences. Piece by piece, investigators struggled to find clues before time ran out.

    The sense of frustration over his kidnapping is still vivid. So is the outrage when the kidnappers released a video of Pearl being beheaded, a savage death for a man who by all accounts was peaceful. It's heartbreaking to hear Pearl's father recall his conversation with officials who informed him of his son's death. Are you sure he is dead, he asked? Yes, he was told. But how? Please don't make us tell you.

    But he guessed the truth.

    Pearl's body, mutilated and placed in plastic bags, wouldn't be found until May 2002.

    There should be some comfort, I suppose, in Mariane Pearl's relentless optimism, and in Dan Pearl's good work and unflagging dedication to it. Knowing him better naturally leads to an increased anger and sadness at his death - but also, by gaining a sense of his joy in life and seeing his family's refusal to knuckle under to an unimaginable tragedy, maybe to a glimmer of hope, as well.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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