Friday, March 05, 2010

Ergun Caner: Raised by a devout Muslim Father

The issues presently swirling around Ergun Caner have created a certain amount of lack of clarity. This post attempts to clarify some of the issues. Before saying more, I would like to point out that I've attempted (in three posts - link to first - link to second) to respond to over a dozen of the accusations that have been presented against Dr. Caner. My reason for doing so is two-fold: (1) I view the accusations that Dr. Caner is a "fake ex-Muslim" as violations of the 9th commandment and (2) it seems that none of Dr. Caner's other Christian brethren are providing visible responses to these accusations. As to the latter point, I recognize that I may simply be unaware of what responses have been offered.

I do not endorse the conclusion that the "Fake Ex Muslims" site reaches. That site is essentially trying to suggest that Dr. Caner was never a Muslim. Certainly the title of the site gives that impression. The evidence that the site has adduced, in my opinion, is not sufficient to support that conclusion.

Brief Caner Biography
What is Caner's story? As best as I can reconstruct it, based on a number of inconsistent statements that I've seen both in videos from Ergun Caner and his brother Emir, as well as in their book Unveiling Islam, Ergun and the middle brother of the three Caner boys, Erdem, were born in Stockholm in 1966 and 1968 respectively, to a Turkish father and Swedish mother. The Caner family moved to America some time around 1969 or early 1970, and Emir Caner was born shortly thereafter (in 1970). The family split due to a divorce that was finalized some time shortly after the arrival in America. The brothers' primary custodian was their mother, though they were with their father every weekend and attended the Islamic foundation (which they referred to as the "mosque" though it appears to have lacked any minaret). The branch of Islam with which the Caner family was associated was the Sunni branch (which is the largest by population).

Their father was apparently a devout Muslim who helped to renovate the building that eventually served as the Islamic foundation building, so that it could serve as a place of worship. Their mother's devotion to Islam is less clear. Like many Muslim women immigrants, she does not appear to have worn any of the traditional Muslim female garb. Nevertheless, she apparently encouraged her sons to be observant Muslims and supported their father's Muslim influence.

It appears that in 1981, when Ergun was 15 years old, he was converted from Islam to Christianity. His brothers were apparently converted one year later on November 4, 1982, when Ergun was 16, and his brother Emir was 12 (Erdem was 14). It may be that all three were baptized in 1982, since it appears that the Caners' father disowned them (for their conversion to Christianity) at that time. Their mother does not appear to have disowned them and later converted to Christianity herself. Their father died in the meantime, apparently remaining a Muslim to the end.

Troubling Inconsistencies
This, as I have said, is my best attempt to reconstruct the events of the Caner brothers' lives based on a number of inconsistent reports that have been provided by Ergun and Emir. It would be nice if the Caner brothers would themselves set forth a brief biographical sketch of their lives and explain (if possible) the various inconsistencies that have been brought to their attention. Many of the inconsistencies are troubling, but many of the inconsistencies are in the form of statements made orally and apparently "off the cuff." I understand that people sometimes make mistakes during oral presentations - I myself have done so, as have many of my friends. I also understand that, in the moment, Dr. Caner may have embellished his biography - adding "devout" where it was not justified and overstating his international background.

At the time of this writing, Dr. Caner has removed his biography (link to broken page) his personal testimony (link to broken page)

Other Issues
The primary focus of the Muslim critic seems to have been on trying to persuade people that Dr. Caner was never a Muslim. I don't think that the critic has succeeded in that regard. Nevertheless, he has identified a significant number of troubling inconsistencies with respect to Caner's biography. I hope that Dr. Caner will take the time to carefully (in writing) set forth his true biography. Yet other issues remain as well.

Among the other issues that the Muslim critic has identified were apparently inaccurate reports regarding Dr. Caner's education. Apparently one or more website inaccurately described Dr. Caner's educational background. Thankfully, Dr. Caner has clarified this matter (link to his clarification). That set of comments also included an extremely high level biography. I view this matter as a closed one. I'm not aware of anything else that Dr. Caner needs to explain regarding the inconsistent web site biographies of him that allegedly appeared at an earlier date.

Also, Dr. Caner has been criticized regarding debates. Dr. Caner has provided a statement (link to statement) in which he apologizes in vague terms for falsely claiming to have debated one Muslim leader. However, Dr. Caner has repeatedly claimed to have debated many Muslim leaders and leaders of other religions. It does not appear he has done any such debates. The closest he has come was to doing so was an email exchange with Nadir Ahmed.

Where to Go from Here
I'm at a loss as to how I can further assist in Dr. Caner's defense. Indeed, recently a close friend told me, "I'm not sure pointing out how embarrassing his inaccuracies are can be called a defense." My point, however, from the get-go has been to note that despite a number of such inaccuracies, and despite Caner's apparent penchant for embellishing his oral presentations and conflating details when speaking without notes, nevertheless he was a Muslim who converted to Christianity.

The fundamental assertion that Caner is a "Fake Ex Muslim" is wrong. If the "Fake Ex Muslims" site were merely a "Litany of Ergun Caner's numerous errors regarding Islam" site, I would probably have not bothered to try to come to his defense. At this point, however, I'm not sure of what further assistance (if any) I can be to him. I want to encourage him to get his biography and personal testimony straight.

His own book, Unveiling Islam, corrects many of the mistakes he has made regarding Islam in his oral presentations. It's not clear why he makes the mistakes he does, given the book he has written. I would encourage him, however, to be more careful in his representations of Islam, because it is easy to understand why a Muslim would have doubts about him, given his errors.

I don't know whether Dr. Caner will even read this post. I hope he will, and I hope he will read it in the spirit of encouragement and exhortation that it is written. I hope his followers and fans will similarly exhort and encourage him to make a clean break with his mistakes of the past - set the record straight, and permit us to be able to respond to Muslims who claim Caner is a "fake ex Muslim" with something substantial.

- TurretinFan

P.S. Oh, and as for the Taser incident. Ok, he didn't get actually shocked according to the video (one of the barbs didn't penetrate his skin). He did take a taser dart to the back, which presumably hurts a bit. (link to Taser post)


Nora said...

Another odd aspect of that website is that, from what I understand of Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), the child is conceived within marriage to a Muslim father and a Muslim or non-Muslim mother, the child is considered a Muslim by default. According to a hadith somewhere in Sahih Muslim, children are born as Muslims and it’s only the parents’ traditions that change the child’s religion. Many times people who are not raised as Muslims and later embrace Islam describe themselves as reverts, not converts.

Unless Mr. Khan can prove that the Caner’s father or mother were NOT Muslim, or converted out and raised the boys in a different faith, they are converts out of Islam to Christianity and there’s no way around it without being horribly inconsistent.

I wonder how much of this is driven by the idea that no true Muslim would ever convert out. You’ll see this on Youtube occasionally when some convert to Islam and then leave, all the Sturm und Drang is ‘they were never really Muslims in the first place!’ and ‘no one would ever leave’.

Kind of like an oddball take on perseverance of the saints.

Andrew Suttles said...

> "...Ok, he didn't get actually shocked..."

What?! Outrage! I'm going to blog all about this at my new website: "Fake Ex Tazed People".

Strong Tower said...

TF- Thanks for attempting to bring clarity...

It's still unclear... but thanks.

Perhaps, IF, and BIG IF, Liberty conducts any honest review, we might get the "official story." I hope by "official" it is the true one.

Anonymous said...

lol this does not prove that shmergun didnt lie about his life

Turretinfan said...

Of course it doesn't prove that. We admit he did make some incorrect statements.

frankfusion said...

To add some clarity to this, I went on the internet way back machine and found some old pics of Dr. Caner from his youth:

More so, here is the link to what the way back machine has on his website:*/

Here is his old bio (with a pdf. version)

Not sure if this will help the discussion. But there you are. Thanks for your work TF. Blessings

Turretinfan said...

Thanks, Fusion! I have updated my page of Caner materials.

frankfusion said...

You're welcome sir. By the way, I know this post isn't about it, but I was wondering, what books on evangelism/outreach would you recommend?

Turretinfan said...

I guess that depends on what your target crowd, your planned approach, and so forth.

frankfusion said...

Ah! We're a small SBC Reformed Church in a typical suburban Caliorfnia city city. WE're small in number but we are seeing the need to reach out to the community and do evangelism. Most of us are fans of Driscol, Piper, 9Marks etc....

Turretinfan said...

It sounds then that you would be less likely to be doing open-air street-preaching evangelism and more likely to be doing door-to-door or event-driven (i.e. holding special events and encouraging the lost to attend) evangelism.

I'm not sure I recall reading a book that was particularly helpful with respect to those approaches. What I've read generally makes the point that the most important thing is to actually get started doing it, and not to be discouraged if you don't see immediate results.

One book that may be helpful in preparations is Tim Keller's "The Reason for God." Although he's East Coast based, I think many of the questions that he poses and answers are questions you may find yourself faced with as well.

Of course, if you are located in heavily Roman Catholic neighborhoods, the questions would tend to be rather different.

- TurretinFan

The Berean Search said...

I was thinking on the issue of Caner's claim that he used to make Salah in the bathroom of his high school.

If he did in fact do this (which is clearly against Islamic teaching) the most logical thing I can speculate is that perhaps he was doing wudu in the sinks in the bathroom and just prayed in there out of convenience, while simultaneously being ignorant of the fact that as a Muslim he wasn't supposed to pray in a bathroom.

In any case, this is all most disappointing. As OumAmir pointed out, anytime someone leaves Islam they are immediately branded a "liar" who was "never a Muslim". Ergun's apparent dishonesty simply provides an opportunity for the nay-sayers to shout "I told you so!".

Also, as OumAmir pointed out, if someone has a Muslim father they are automatically a Muslim according to Fiqh. On this point it wouldn't matter if Ergun never said the shahadah or a single prayer in his life. He would still be a Muslim according to Islamic standards. Muslims, let's have a little consistency on how one can be born into your faith.

Anonymous said...

I have read some of Mr. Kahn's postings along with Dr Caner's current (very short) biography. Had he described Dr. Caner as an "Ex Muslim Fake" then he would have been completely accurate.
Bennett Willis

Turretinfan said...

Yes, sadly it looks like there are a lot of "Issues" (to borrow from Mr. Khan).

safiyyahamg said...

What does it mean to be a "Muslim?" Is it something you acquire from birth to Muslim parents? Is it something you pick up by going to the mosque on occasion or even every weekend? I don't think so. I think it requires you to believe on your own accord, and that, I say, he certainly never did. He claims he prayed 5 times a day, which is the most basic act of the faith, after saying the shahada. When you're praying 5X a day, you say the shahada at least 10 times a day. His words show he didn't know how to say the shahada, and he doesn't know how to pray. That is more than enough for me to say he wasn't a Muslim. Is someone a Christian before they get "saved" just because they have Christian parents and are taken to the church? His "inconsistencies" which you call "troubling" are bold-faced lies. He didn't just slip on accident, he slipped up by trying to give himself street cred, and he lied about his own father and mother. He clearly did not "slip up" when he claimed to have debated a famous Muslim debater in Nebraska. You don't just say that if you've never debated any Muslim in Nebraska. It's a LIE not an"inconsistency." How can you trust anything that comes out of his mouth? Isn't HE the one who disobeyed the 9th commandment?? His father never trained him to kill people. To lie about your father like that is just so painfully sad to me, as a mother. I'm glad he's dead so he doesn't have to hear his son saying such horrible things about him. (May he rest in peace, and may Allah forgive his sins and grant him heaven. ameen.) He has no credibility as a former Muslim. I've been a Muslim for 4 years, and it's painfully obvious that this man was never a practicing Muslim. And yet he did for years what I am doing now? Why would you listen to someone who lies and doesn't know what he's talking about unless you want to believe what he is saying?

Francis Turretin said...

One quick question about Islam for you. Where does the Koran say that you have to do anything more than submit and obey, namely that you must also somehow devoutly or sincerely believe?