January 31, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP)--Imploring the name of Allah, former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali pleaded for the release of kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

``We as Muslims must lead by example,'' Ali said in a statement released late Wednesday.

``Daniel is a professional journalist,'' Ali said. ``His job is to give a voice to those who wish to be heard by the world community. Daniel should not become another victim of the ongoing conflict. I appeal to you to show Daniel Pearl compassion and kindness.

``Treat him as you would wish all Muslims to be treated by others. Give hope and believe that Allah will guide us through these difficult times. It is my most sincere prayer that Daniel Pearl be permitted to return safely to his family. May Allah have mercy on us all.''

The statement was released by Ali spokesman Alexander Auerbach after kidnappers in Pakistan threatened to kill Pearl within 24 hours if their demands weren't met. The deadline was extended Thursday by another day. Pearl has been missing for a week.

``I pray this message reaches those who are detaining Daniel Pearl,'' the statement begins. ``As a Muslim, I end each prayer with a plea for peace and compassion among all peoples of the world.

``During the most recent conflict too many people have suffered, too many have fallen victim to injustice and intolerance, many have lost hope that people can coexist peacefully as nations without disrespecting the culture, traditions and rights of others.''

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