Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Curious Caner Tidbits

In reviewing the various books that Dr. Ergun Caner has produced, I came across a number of curious tidbits, which I've arranged by book below.

When Worldviews Collide
In the war on terror, Caner understands both sides because he has been on both sides. He was reared the son of an Islamic leader. In 1982 he converted to the Christian faith after immigrating to this country. As a consequence of this conversion, he was disowned by his family.
(Section: About the Author)
When I became a Christian in 1982, my father, a devout Sunni Muslim, immediately disowned me. Overnight I went from having an intimate relationship with the man who was my hero to being a virtual orphan.
(Section: Week 1)

The concerns about these tidbits are the 1982 date (which is questionable), the misleading suggestion that 1982 was somehow close to when Caner came to the country, and the misleading suggestion that Caner's "family" disowned him, when it appears just to have been his father (though that itself is very significant). The "virtual orphan" comment is certainly more accurate, though the reader is probably left uninformed that custody was maintained by Caner's mother.

More than a prophet: an insider's response to Muslim beliefs about Jesus and Christianity
In the interest of fairness and candor, let us disclose a few details of our background.

First, we are proud to be Turkish in ancestry. To many Middle Eastern Muslims, though, this means we were "half-breed secular Muslims." In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), abolished the caliphate and established a secular government without mullah rule. So many believe that Turkish Islam is not the real thing, so we are disqualified to discuss the subject as former members of the Islamic faith. Certainly we were both raised to be faithful Muslims within the Turkish culture, yet our religious upbringing and understandings were those of devout Sunni Muslims anywhere. We are more influenced in our Turkish culture by our homeland's horrible treatment of the Kurds during the twentieth century than by the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. We do not come from an Arabic-speaking heritage, but then only a minority of the world's Muslims do come from homes in which Arabic was the primary language.

Second, we both converted from Islam to Christianity before we reached adulthood. Some Muslims contend that we left the faith while we were too young to fully comprehend Islam. Whatever deficiencies we may have had in our understanding have been compensated by over twenty years of study in Islam as we have tried to understand the Muslim mind.
(pages 19-20)

These paragraphs seem to be artfully crafted. They acknowledge, to some extent, the "secular" nature of Turkish Islam. They also never explicitly claim that they ever lived in Turkey. While they call Turkey their "homeland" and while they completely downplay the Swedish influence of their grandmother, they may be justified in calling it a "homeland" in the sense of "fatherland."

They also truthfully state that they were converted before adulthood. In Emir's case, he was apparently converted at age 12. Ergun was apparently converted around 15-16 years old, although the precise date is not clear.

Finally, it is interesting to note that they attempt to bolster their credentials with "over twenty years of study in Islam." It's unclear what study they have in mind. Their books on Islam appear to be only published post-9/11, although evidently the preparation for at least one of those books preceded 9/11. None of their degrees appear to be directly related to Islam, although Dr. Ergun Caner's ThD thesis related to the Christian side of the Crusades.

Unveiling Islam
Ergun Mehmet Caner (D.Min, Emmanuel University; Th.D., University of South Africa)
(reverse cover)

That "D.Min." from Emmanuel University is a credential that Dr. Caner appears to be shying away from using now. He has suggested that it may have been "honorary," though it is not clear why he would list it on the cover of his book, if it were honorary.

Holier Than Thou
A public speaker and apologist, Caner has debated Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious leaders in thirteen countries. The author of seventeen books.
(reverse cover)
I was raised in Islam, and when I became a Christian in 1982, I lost everything -- my family, my friends, my mosque, my culture, even my identity. My father disowned me, but my church family adopted me.

It was a difficult transition at first. I had never held a Bible, a hymnal, or a Sunday school quarterly. I was unaccustomed to the language of the church. I did not even know what a bulletin was.

In addition, I was forced to adjust to life without my father. In many countries, including my home country of Turkey, to become a murtad (convert from Islam) was a capital crime, punishable by death within the span of twenty-four hours from indictment. Being disowned was a decidedly less horrific option, but no less traumatic to an eighteen-year-old young man.

A year following my conversion, I had surrendered to the gospel ministry.
(page xii)
When my mother became a Christian in 1991, she had already endured a difficult divorce. Our father blamed our mother for the conversion of their three sons to Christianity. The long, drawn-out court proceedings were painful, excruciatingly so. The only pain witnessed that was worse than the human tug-of-war that ensued between my parents was the scorn heaped upon my mother as a divorcée. That was true even in the church.
(page 19)

The "debating" "leaders" claim seems to be misleading (as discussed here). The "seventeen books" claim is questionable. I cannot locate seventeen books authored by Ergun Caner - even if I included the books where he is a named editor, I cannot find that many books.

"I lost everything" seems a little overdramatic, though again, losing one's father is no small thing. Suggesting that Turkey makes conversion to Christianity a capital offense does not appear to be an accurate description of Turkey's legal system, either in 1982 or now. And it seems pretty certain that Ergun Caner was not 18 years old when he converted (that would have been late 1984 or 1985).

Ergun's father blaming Ergun's mother for their conversion raises a number of interesting questions. It seems to provide additional confirmation that Ergun's mother did not assist in raising the Caner brothers in Islam, or that Ergun's grandmother was, in fact, instrumental in his conversion (as alleged in one pre-9/11 testimonial that we have discovered)(see also this post).

Why I am a Christian, Chapter 14, Why I am no Longer a Muslim
Recognizing the attendant risks, my father, Acar Mehmet Caner, came to America not to fulfill dreams but to build mosques. He was an architect, and along with his three sons, our mother, and our grandmother, he moved to this country because Islam was spreading into the West at an unprecedented rate. He was more than just a casual or cultural Muslim. He was devout, as were his father and mother, and their parents before them. We were committed Muslims many generations back.

Two types of Muslims move to America. A few come hoping to escape their Islamic background and restrictive lifestyle. They take on the culture of America readily – the dress, the speech, and the exuberant way of life.

We were not in that category. We were among the majority: those who come to America to change it. We were proud of our Islamic heritage. We prayed five types a day as the Qur’an demanded, and ate by the dietary restrictions of halal (allowable) and haram (forbidden). We understood that while America was intriguing, it was also a land of great temptation where many Muslims lose their way. Our father was determined not to let this happen to his family.

There was no mosque in the community where we first settled, Columbus, Ohio. So the local Muslims began meeting at the Ohio State University campus. The group became known as the Islamic Study Center and was lead by an imam (pastor) who was also teaching at the university. The Muslims of Columbus were united in their vision and determined to see America become an Islamic nation.

It was 1979, and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had recently declared that Muslims would not relent until America was an Islamic nation. We shared his vision and longed for that day. We believed the Islamic eschatology that Allah would judge mankind once the word was subjugated to Sharia (Islamic) law.
(pages 254-55)

I suppose one might justify his statement about the three sons moving to America on the basis that Ergun's mother was already pregnant with Emir when she moved (if that is indeed the case, we have not been given the precise date of their arrival in the U.S.).

The statement "it was 1979" in this context suggests that they moved to the U.S. then. In fact, from what we can tell, 1969 would be a more accurate date, since Emir was born in the U.S. in 1970, from what we can tell.

While Acar Caner may have left Turkey to build mosques in the West, as far as we can tell Acar moved to the U.S. from Sweden, which is also a western country, though not in the Western Hemisphere.

There is no evidence that the Caner family did not dress like Westerners. As we've noted in other posts, Turkish people generally do dress like Westerners. So do Swedish people. "Devotion" is hard to measure, but if devotion is really shown by how you dress (as the passage quoted above seems to suggest), the evidence we have shows Caner to be in the "dress like Westerners" category.

For what it is worth, I do buy the story about his father being involved in starting the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio. It was started in 1970, though, as we discussed previously (see the discussion here).

- TurretinFan

Update: "Why I am a Christian" was edited by Norman Geisler.  In addition to the points I've noted above, Caner states: "All our lives we talked about moving to 'Oz,' where we could make more in a week than our parents made in a month." (p. 254)


Anonymous said...

"..These paragraphs seem to be artfully crafted. They acknowledge, to some extent, the "secular" nature of Turkish Islam. They also never explicitly claim that they ever lived in Turkey. While they call Turkey their "homeland" and while they completely downplay the Swedish influence of their grandmother, they may be justified in calling it a "homeland" in the sense of "fatherland."

When I visited Sweden back in 1984 or 85 I went to a community named "Sorunda" I believe about forty minutes from Stockholm. I may have the name of the community wrong?

In any event, there were "muslim communities" within that larger community. It could be compared to "Japantown" here in either Los Angeles or San Francisco. Or Chinatown or little Italy etc. etc.. I know that when I have visited those places in California or New York or Washington D.C. or Seattle, or Chicago, or or or, the Cuban community in Miami area, I would hear the ethnic language of the people being spoken there. It could be that Ergun was trilingual in Sweden because within the "muslim" community there, he spoke his father's Turkish and mother's Swedish and then of course, they all spoke English.

I know that I have a vague recollection of being able to speak my native tongue when I was little and surrounded by the Native speaking Pomos of Northern California. It dropped off as my visits to the Reservation were more infrequent as I grew up. When I go back to the Reservation and can be around some of the older ones and listen to them talk our language, I can recall some words, but I certainly couldn't speak a phrase or coherent sentence to them.

So it does seem to me when Ergun makes mention of being ridiculed for his "speaking" as he grew into the culture of Ohio once they settled there, there is some plausibility to it?

Again, as I have done a minimal amount of research on children growing up in the Turkish culture, "in Turkey", it makes sense that when Acar and Monica were together both in Sweden and in Ohio, he would not be so involved in the child raising sense, since the Turkish culture seems to be more heavily maternalistic when it comes to child raising. In my native american culture the boys were with the men and the girls where with the women until the nighttime when we would gather to eat and talk and speak our culture to our young, both girls and boys.

hutchman said...


I doubt Ergun spoke anything well while in Sweden. When they came to America, it was before his 4th birthday!

I used to travel to Kista Sweden for work (I worked for a Swedish company). Kista is a suburb of Stockholm. While it was a melting pot just like the US is, I don't recall seeing anyone going around in Muslim dress. For the most part, Swedes are dressed better than the average American. In the evening when we would go out to eat ... you didn't see people in jeans and tennis shoes like here in the US. Leather shoes, slacks, and a shirt with a collar were the norm. How do I remember? ... well I couldn't get into a restaurant one evening because I didn't have a shirt with a collar!



Anonymous said...


yeah and as I recall, when we would do our outdoor "Evangelistic" solicitations next to these several story block housing units, the Muslims were always well dressed as you describe. I don't ever remember seeing a Muslim with a "towel head". I have seen that in Africa but never in Europe.

But as for what language Ergun was speaking, we start saying words at an early age and by 3 years old, we speak fairly well the simplest things. If the historical timeline that we now understand is correct based on what we know the legal records show, Ergun was three or four years old when they made it across the pond as a family to Ohio. I would suspect he was speaking better Swedish than English? That's just a guess seeing there isn't much we can go on otherwise? I would also suspect if they lived in a heavily Muslim community over in Sweden, he would be able to speak the language of the Turkish Muslims too?

hutchman said...


If I recall, most everyone in Sweden speaks English very well. Folks 40+ or 50+ that you run into don't speak English at all or very well.

I think their school system is geared to teach English at a young age so they are ready to compete in the global economy.

In fact, they learn "The Queen's English". I noticed one woman that I was interacting with at a store had kind of a British accent. When I inquired about it she said that she studied Queen's English and I think she even had a British tutor.

I do remember those big housing units you spoke of. Huge and row after row of them. Government housing at its finest!



Turretinfan said...

This is simply speculation: what is the common language of a Swedish woman and a Turkish man? Most likely, in Europe in the late 60's, the answer is "English."

hutchman said...


I had no problem at all understanding my two co-workers that WERE born and raised in Turkey! They speak English very well!

gypsyrose said...

There are some points I would like to cover:

Ergun Caner:

'We understood that while America was intriguing, it was also a land of great temptation where many Muslims lose their way. Our father was determined not to let this happen to his family.'

Coming from Sweden, the US culture would have been different in the late sixties. We (in the US where I grew up), were much less liberal.
Yet, he is making it sound as if they came from Turkey!
I came from Turkey in those years During Christmas of 1963, as an 8 year old.
Came from the Aegean area and I don't remember that American culture was so "different".

However, he is quite correct in the assessment that the father would have been concerned about the influences of the culture.

Much of the family values were not the same.Women were working and did not have the time to take care of their children, many were latch-key kids, social programs did not exist for many areas.
Trying to make up for this is natural in taking the kids to the mosque, yet not effective as having supervision of a child.
Probably the mosque time was the basis of his relationship with his father and that skewed perspective of his father who was working all the time.
The rest I am not even bothering with since reading between the lines, and being brought up in the same time frame, from a similar background, I am still amazed that people believed him.