Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Friend, Colleague Remembered

Mocha Moms regular Asra Nomani discusses her continuing investigation into the disappearance and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl had been staying with his colleague, Nomani, in Pakistan when he went missing in 2002.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

From time to time, I end the program talking about something I have on my mind. It's my Can I Just Tell You commentary. But today, I'm going to turn the mic over to Asra Nomani. She's a friend and colleague, a distinguished investigative reporter, and a frequent contributor to our Mocha Moms' Roundtable. And like me, she is also a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Today, she remembers another former colleague of ours.

Professor ASRA NOMANI (Journalism, Georgetown University; Author, "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for Soul of Islam"): So six years ago today, Pakistani police poured into my house in Zamzama Street in Karachi, Pakistan. My buddy from The Wall Street Journal, Danny Pearl, hadn't return after leaving my house for an interview. All night, his wife Mariane and I kept vigil, hunting for clues on Danny's laptop.

Five weeks later, we learned the sad truth. Danny had been murdered. Danny's death marked a new reality for journalists in the 21st century. From Oakland, California to Baghdad, we've got bull's eyes on our backs.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11, confessed to killing Danny, along with a laundry list of other nefarious deeds. But we haven't seen complicit proof.

Four men were convicted in Danny's murder, but none of them held the bloody knife.

From President Bush to President Musharraf, we were told justice would be served. Justice hasn't been served. But can I just tell you? The spirit of investigative reporting with which Danny lived and died is alive.

Every Tuesday night since this past September, some two dozen undergraduate and graduate students at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies have convened as The Pearl Project, a class that I'm teaching with another professor, Barbara Feinman Todd.

We're not waiting for Bob Woodward to tell us who really killed Danny and why they killed him. We've set out to do it ourselves. Rebecca's got the White House beat. Margot manages our propedia, a private Wikipedia for our project.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of Danny's kidnapping, Doug booted up his Apple MacBook to inspect his spreadsheet of suspects. Kyra tracked down an ex-CIA agent we've been trying to get for months. Katie figured out ways to get to the courier who dropped off the original video documenting Danny's murder.

Some students have never done an interview before in their lives. But the fire in their eyes and the sincerity in their hearts gives me hope for the future of journalism, for the future of our world. In the face of fear and tragedy, it's sometimes easier for societies to demonize their enemy and weave elaborate conspiracy theories, because ordinary truths often do not lend themselves to hatred.

But can I just tell you? We can't wait for someone else to explain the world to us. We have to stand up for truth-telling, just as our band of students do every day without ego, fame or status on the line.

Some of our friends died trying, and we owe it to them to try as well.

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MARTIN: Asra Nomani is a visiting professor at Georgetown University. She's the author of "Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for Soul of Islam."

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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues