By Craig Considine – Since September 1st, 2008, when our travels first began, I have met people from all walks of life; distinguished professors like Chomsky at MIT, famous politicians like Jesse Jackson, popular religious leaders like Imam Qazwini, bright young American students in Chicago, and even intelligent homeless people like ‘Jesse’ in Detroit. Interviewing Chomsky in his office, and sitting fireside with Hamza Yusuf at the Zaytuna Institute, literally blew my mind, not only for the sheer knowledge that both individuals shed on me, but in turn, for their ability to motivate me to ‘think outside the box’. But in all actuality, while I will always cheirsh the words of wisdom of Chomsky, Yusuf and the like, no one individual on this journey impressed me, or has impacted my psyche and character more, than the courageous Dr. Judea Pearl.
Dr. Pearl, if you are unaware, is the father of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal jouranlist who was murdered in Pakistan simply because he was a Jew. Any normal father would undoubtedly lash out verbally, or seek out some form of vengeance, against those who had committed that vicious act of immorality and hate against his son. But Dr. Pearl was different. Extremely different. He searched for a Muslim companion that would visit universities and institutions across Americam with the purpose of igniting an interfaith dialogue movement to transcend the hate that sprung between Jews and Muslims in the aftermath of Daniel’s death. Dr. Pearl chose Dr. Ahmed, the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam, and both have since been the quintessential example of what is needed if human beings wish to coexist with one another. They have made a lasting impression on the world not only through their their dialogues, but also for the symbolism of their friendship: a Jew and a Muslim can be friends even amidst one of the most tragic moment of the 21st century.
Dr. Pearl, as I said, is the most impressive individual I have met thus far on this journey. He is an extremely bright and distinguished professor of physics at UCLA, but he is even more impressive to me for his courage, strength, and compassion in the light of his son’s passing. It is hard for me to even fathom Dr. Pearl sitting on a stage in front of thousands talking about the son he loved so dearly; he does so, and with an attitude that is simply remarkable. I respect him immensely for his effort in trying to ferment something positive in light of the greatest challenge any one individual can ever face.
When I left Dr. Pearl’s home, Dr. Ahmed asked me how I thought the interview went. For ten seconds or so, I was not sure what to say. The content of the interview – we spoke about the American identity, Zionism, and the Annapolis Peace Talks – seemed totally irrelevant to me. All I could think about was his strength and courage. How he can even sit down with us and talk about his son (and other toucy subjects) so openly is something to admire. Dr. Pearl is as positive as one can be, considering the circumstances, and I will never forget that as I grow older and as I undoubtedly face undaunted challenges of my own. To this day, I still wonder if there is anyone stronger in this world than Dr. Pearl and his wife. Consider Dr. Pearl a hero of mine.