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Slain journalist’s dad extols son’s life and example

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Judea Pearl, the father of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists, speaks at Park City's Har Shalom Jewish Synagogue.

Judea Pearl, the father of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists, speaks at Park City’s Har Shalom Jewish Synagogue.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

PARK CITY — The father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl called his son "the walking sunshine of truth" during a lecture Wednesday in Park City.

The January 2002 beheading of Pearl in a dungeon in Karachi, Pakistan, has become a story about tolerance and sanity in the face of evil, said Judea Pearl, a computer science professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Daniel Pearl, South Asia bureau chief, was on his way to an interview Jan. 23, 2002, when he was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists, who eventually videotaped themselves killing the journalist. Among Pearl's final words were, "My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish and I am Jewish." Pearl then said, while being videotaped, that a street in Israel is named after his great-grandfather, who helped found a town there.

"The sound of his last words became iconic personal reminders that made it crystal clear that the Sept. 11 attack wasn't isolated rage but a profound clash of two idealogies," Judea Pearl said. "There is an idealogy of tantrum and cruelty on one side and an idealogy of friendship and openness and open-mindedness on the other."

Video of Pearl's death was posted online by his captors, some of whom have since been captured and confessed to their crimes. Several documentary films have been made about Pearl's life. There have also been books written in his honor. One written by Daniel Pearl's wife, Mariane, was made into the 2007 movie "A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie.

Daniel Pearl's final statements showed his captors that he remained proud of his culture and identity, his father said. They also showed his family that he wasn't being coerced into speaking and showed the rest of the world the true face of America and its values, he said.

"Like the diary of Anne Frank, he inspired pride and determination among young people of all denominations," Judea Pearl said.

The professor's hourlong speech at Park City's Har Shalom Jewish Synagogue touched on the need to "stop the tidal wave of terror" so the uphill march of human civilization will continue. Young Jews and other young Americans should be taught pride in their culture's achievements and should have self respect, he said.

"We believe they deserve to be told, 'You are OK. You can be mighty proud of who you are because you are Daniel Pearl's kin,"' Judea Pearl said. "We are the world's largest exporters of hope."

Pearl also spoke about the need of religions worldwide to reform. Holy books can be interpreted in ways "compatible with modern standard norms of society," he said.

The speech impressed and inspired both Jewish audience members and synagogue guests, several said afterward.

"We're Mormon, but we looked at (his speech) in the perspective of our religion," said Sue Proctor of Park City. "There were a couple little things that gave me pause to think."

E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com