The Jihad Seminar

In March 2002, three Muslim converts attend an Evangelical Christian talk on the inner secrets of ‘Holy Jihad’. Shocked by what they hear, they convince the Islamic Council of Victoria to lodge a complaint against Catch the Fire Ministries Inc, under a controversial new hate speech law. 

A case expected to be over in three days turns into an unholy war of words lasting five long years – freedom of speech versus freedom from religious vilification is under the spotlight. Neither side capitulates: Muslims and the interfaith lobby opposing Born-again activists and their Australian and overseas supporters.   

Award-winning author Hanifa Deen follows this case from beginning to end, witnessing the religious impulse at its best – and worst. 

Her very human account focuses on the personalities and motives of the two religious tribes – Muslims and Born-again Christians. Real people – on both sides of the courtroom – express their pain and their innocence at a hearing that turns into a nightmare. 

Through Deen’s eyes we discover a wider meaning to this conflict.

Shortlisted, Australian Human Rights Commission, 2008 Literature Non-Fiction Award 

Read an Excerpt:

For the first time in my life I found myself talking to men of the church rather than men of the mosque—to ministers and priests rather than imams, shaykhs and emirs—though I admit to steering clear of them as well for much of my life. Yet over the months, I came to enjoy meeting men from a range of faiths who schooled me in the world of religious hierarchies and church politics, an arena more competitive than I’d ever imagined. I found that it was not an alien Christian planet after all and had some things in common with Islam—it was just a different kind of boys’ club.

The cast of my morality play was a mixed bag of holy men and lay people gussied up in a hodgepodge of dogma and confusion. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations and manipulations swarmed around like wasps. My old joke of ‘Who are the infidels and who are the true believers?’ was finally having its day in court.

Many onlookers—sceptics and believers alike—thought they already knew the answer: the Pentecostals and the Muslims were opposite sides of the same coin. Deep religious convictions—a stubbornness of faith—were common to both. They couldn't both be right could they?

The Jihad Seminar (Part Three:  ‘Dar al – Harb (House of War) p.43


Fiona Capp - The Age "Pick of the Week" August 30, 2008:  
"THIS INTRICATE AND intelligent book is a reminder of the complex realities behind what seem like cut and dried, adversarial news stories. In 2002, the evangelical Christian group Catch The Fire Ministries held a seminar about Islam. Three Muslim converts who attended were deeply offended by claims made by the Pakistani-born Pastor Daniel Scot. The Islamic Council of Victoria invoked the relatively new Racial and Religious Vilification Act and after more than five years of lawsuits, the case concluded with an out-of-court agreement. Hanifa Deen—a secular Muslim—makes a skilful, informed guide through the maze of this protracted yet fascinating case. While teasing out the broader issues of free speech and Islamophobia, she concludes that the story is “convert driven”: on one side by born-again Christians and on the other by new Muslims. Most intriguingly, it’s a case that challenges stereotypes about ethnicity and the religious divide." 
" ....Deen is a feisty presence throughout the book... Full points then must be given for Deen's patience and tenacity.  The result is a book far removed from the lazy Islam versus Christianity narrative pushed by the mainstream press.  Instead, The Jihad Seminar frames the story as being 'convert driven' with new Muslims on one side and born again Christians on the other..."
  Full Review    

Michael Freedman - Matilda (literary weblog): 
" ....The book at times is a little one-sided, but this is more due to the CTF [Catch the Fire] refusal to talk to the author than any pre-existing bias on her part….  The book remains at all times interesting, and her commentary is never condescending...."
  Full Review