With the assistance of a friend (whose identity will be concealed for now, for his own protection - some of Caner's supporters have been quite unkind), I was able to get access to Dr. Caner's high school yearbooks (don't worry - not his personal copy) from Dr. Caner's high school in Gahanna, OH (named for America's 16th president).
Based on the activities list provided by Dr. Caner's senior yearbook, we find an interesting picture of Dr. Caner's high school years (the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 correspond respectively to the year of high school, with 4 being final year):
Children's Theatre 4
Cast member in:
- "The Homecoming"
- "Father of the Bride" (one other activity supporting this play)
- Cast Member 2,3,4
- Varsity Varieties (Usher) 2
- Varsity Varieties (Stage Crew) 1
The picture that Caner's high school activities provide for us is a picture of a young man who is very interested in acting. He also does singing, and some sports in his first two years.
What about his appearance? We have some evidence of that. We can see Dr. Caner's yearbook photos from 1981-84, which appear to show a normal, western attired youth:
On the other hand, on one day when his keffiyeh would have been permitted, "Hat Day," Ergun Caner wore rather different head gear:
In short, here is my understanding of Dr. Ergun Caner: he is an actor.
Within my understanding of Dr. Caner, as an actor, his stage name is "Ergun Mehmet Caner" (his Father's real middle name is Mehmet, but we cannot seem to find any legal documents with "Ergun Mehmet Caner") and the role he is playing is that of a converted Muslim extremist. To this end, he adds a little color here and there to his actual autobiography.
I don't think Dr. Caner meant any harm in this. I think he believed it added a little spice to a life story of growing up in a suburb of Columbus. The story "Ergun Mehmet Caner" has at its core the true life story of Ergun Michael Caner, whose father was a devout Muslim man who enjoyed sports - especially soccer.
Along the way, Dr. Caner seems to (note that it is hard to definitively say) have added a variety of details to his autobiography, such as the suggestion that he got saved later and later in life, and that he came to America later and later as well.
Indeed, despite the evidence we have that strongly suggests Caner was in the U.S. from around 1970 until he completed high school, there are (of course) some gaps.
His mother swore (literally swore an official oath) that Ergun's father had resided in the U.S. for "six years" (as of July 31, 1975), which suggests that the Caner family was in the U.S. at least from 1969 (after Ergun's birth and Erdem's birth and before Emir's birth) to at least the middle of 1975 (copy of her affidavit)(property records corroborate at least part of this). Furthermore, on April 14, 1978, his mother was awarded permanent physical custody of him at a specific address in a suburb of Columbus, OH (copy of divorce decree), and the separation agreement filed on that same date prohibited anyone from removing the children from the local county in Ohio for two years (link to separation agreement). The only gap there is mid-1975 to early 1978. That's about two and a half years. At the very beginning of that gap we have a restraining order dated August 22, 1975, preventing anyone from removing the children from the country and awarding primary custody to the children's mother (link to restraining order). Is it possible that during that two year gap the Mr. Caner somehow took his kids to Turkey and then brought them back? Of course, there are many possibilities, but the evidence doesn't suggest that - on the contrary the evidence suggests that boys lived in Ohio during the interim, since the property on Gertrude St. remained in the Caners' ownership until mid-1978 (link to official property records). Additionally, the dispute over custody and child supported continued into 1976 (link to order from February 1976). However, it appears that Caner's mother prevailed, because the divorce decree makes reference to the fact that custody was awarded to the Caners' mother after a hearing, which again confirms that their residence was with her (the divorce decree appears to be referring to a March 11, 1976 order)(see the docket sheet for the Caner divorce, which appears to confirm that it is the March 11, 1976 order that is in view). Did they vacation to Turkey at some point? I suppose it possible - but it does not appear that they grew up there. All the evidence suggests they grew up in Franklin County, Ohio.
But the story about coming to America in 1978 or 1979 adds a lot of color, and it isn't really the main point (perhaps they even made some little vacation to Turkey during that time period - it doesn't appear probable, but who can disprove it without more evidence?). I'm not defending him for making those kinds of comments, but I don't think people should assume that his intentions were particularly nefarious. I think charity suggests that we should assume that Dr. Caner got caught up in the character of "Ergun Mehmet Caner" that he had created, and decided to make the character more interesting for audience. In that regard it worked, but at the price of a great deal of his own credibility. What is truly sad is that some of his supporters continue to suggest that additional proof is needed before we can reach the conclusion that it appears that Dr. Caner embellished his autobiography.
May I respectfully encourage his supporters to exhort him to come clean - clear away the erroneous impressions that he has given people with his very colorful stories, and give God the glory for saving him, even without all the added color. It's by no means a drab testimony when God saves a perfectly ordinary boy from Ohio. There's plenty of color in that, and praise God that Dr. Caner professes the name of Christ!