Remembering a Friend

The killing of Daniel Pearl spurred Asra Nomani to become a different kind of journalist.

By: Graham Meyer

When Asra Nomani’s friend and fellow foreign correspondent Daniel Pearl left her rented house in Pakistan and never came back, she knew what she had to do: “I really felt like we, as journalists and friends of Danny, had a duty to solve the mystery of his death.”

This year at Georgetown University, Nomani will lead a journalism seminar delving into the questions surrounding Pearl’s murder and what it says about terrorism.

Nomani and Pearl met while working in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal. They played volleyball behind the Lincoln Memorial and went to the clubs on DC’s U Street.

Nomani was born in Mumbai, India, and came to the United States at age four when her father, a nutritionist, was studying at Rutgers. A few years later, the family moved to Morgantown, West Virginia. Nomani’s mother opened a clothing and incense boutique, and her father took a post at West Virginia University, where Nomani later earned her bachelor’s degree. She completed a master’s in international communications from American University while interning for Reuters.

Pearl’s abduction and murder galvanized Nomani, 42, into becoming a different kind of journalist: an activist as well as a reporter. “I had some self-doubt,” she says, “that my journalist friends would think less of me, that I had become impure.”

She overcame her qualms. Nomani successfully challenged the rules at her Morgantown mosque, which once required women to enter through a back door and pray on a balcony that faces a wall instead of on the main floor.

“It’s not enough to put it out there and hope other people will do something,” she says. “Sometimes you have to advocate for your ideas.”