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A court case is underway in Australia, which could result in fines for two Christian leaders because of a seminar on Islam held in March 2002. The seminar was intended for Christians, to educate them on the teachings of Islam in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The seminar was sponsored by Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM) and featured an expert on Islam, Daniel Scot, who had fled Pakistan for Australia in the 1980's to escape religious persecution.

While intended for Christians, three Muslims came to the seminar; two of them recent converts to Islam. According to the accusations from the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), the three were offended by what was said, claiming that, "apart from seriously misrepresenting Islamic teaching, certain statements made on behalf of the group incited fear, hatred and ridicule of, and contempt for, Australian Muslims." Some observers, however, see this as a legal challenge to Christians' freedom to question other religions.

When mediation by the government's Equal Opportunity Commission failed, the ICV took Daniel Scot and the president of CTFM, Danny Nalliah, to a tribunal set up under Victoria State's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. If it is found that the seminar incited hatred against Muslims, they could face fines of up to $6000 ($5500 CDN) or sentenced to six months imprisonment. Under the Act, an organisation can be fined up to $30,000 ($27,500 CDN).

In response to the allegations, Scot and Nalliah claim that what they said in the seminar was solely based on the Quran and that they clearly separated criticism of the teachings of Islam from Muslims themselves. As the lawyer for CTFM said, "the act dealt with inciting hatred, contempt and revulsion, whereas Catch the Fire exhorted Christians to love Muslims and pray for them."

CTFM's lawyer had attempted to have the case dismissed on constitutional grounds. However, according to an October 22 report in The Age Online, the tribunal judge, Michael Higgins, ruled yesterday that the case will continue and accepted the Islamic Council's barrister's request to expand the complaint to include not only what was taught at the seminar, but also "the seminar in its totality, including its style, audience reaction and atmosphere." As a result of this change, the lawyer for CTFM is seeking a two-week adjournment to prepare.

Pray that all charges against Scot and Nalliah will be dismissed. Pray that God's love for Muslims will show throughout the trial and that many will respond to God's love and grace. For a copy of Victoria State's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, see our website at www.vomcanada.com/download/rrta.pdf.

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