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Reporters on the Job

• BAD MEMORIES: As Dan Murphy dug into the career of Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged Al Qaeda operative in today's story (page 1), his research brought back memories of one of his ugliest days in Jakarta.

"I was at my computer at home in 2000 when the house was rocked. An explosion blew out two windows," he says. Dan ran outside and down the leafy streets of what had been considered the safest neighborhood in Jakarta toward a billowing plume of smoke a half mile away. It was the Philippine ambassador's house, and it is now emerging that the Indonesian cleric had links to a group that blew it up. "I was one of the first people on the scene. There were body parts and wailing witnesses. I haven't felt the same about Jakarta since."

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• NOT FOR MEN ONLY: For today's story about Pakistan's attempts to reform Islamic schools, the Monitor's Ilene Prusher went to talk to a mullah (page 7). But she was refused entry to the mosque. "He won't be interviewed by female journalists," the interpreter said.

"I felt kind of ticked off, since we had already been here twice to try to arrange the interview," she says. " 'Wait a minute,' I said. 'I've interviewed Sheikh Yassin, the leader of Hamas, I've interviewed Sheikh Nasrallah of the Hizbollah, and I've interviewed one of the senior ministers of the Taliban. Are you going to tell me that this mullah considers himself more radical than any of those three?"

The interpreter ducked inside to relay her reply. "The mullah asked if I was a clean woman. I told the interpreter I was. 'In that case, he says you can go in, but you have to sit behind me, you have to cover your face, and you can't ask him the questions, you direct them to me.' While some women might consider those conditions unacceptable," says Ilene, "but it was better than no interview at all."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot