Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
An Open Letter to Dr. Falwell and Dr. Godwin
05/10/2010 - James WhiteAn Open Letter to Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty University
In February of 2010 I contacted Dr. Ergun Caner to ask him to please explain inconsistencies in his publicly made statements regarding his debates with Islamic leaders, specifically, in reference to his (at least) twice made claim that he had debated Sheikh Shabir Ally. I had been provided with two audio clips of Dr. Ergun Caner making this claim by Mohammad Khan, a Muslim in London. In one of the public speaking situations Caner even said he debated Shabir Ally in Nebraska. As I was at the time traveling to London to debate Abdullah al-Andalusi at Trinity Road Chapel, I had to wait until I arrived to listen to the audio clips. As soon as I verified that indeed Dr. Caner had made these claims, I contacted Shabir Ally personally, as he and I have debated in both the United States and the United Kingdom. He informed me that he had never debated Ergun Caner, and, in fact, had never, to his recollection, even met him. With this information I wrote directly to Ergun Caner personally. He identified the issue as one of “misspeaking.” So I asked the most logical question I could in light of this claim: if he had just misspoken (twice), then who was it, in fact, that he was debating in Nebraska? Dr. Caner did not give me a response to this request for information: he instead directed me to the “not really an apology” he posted, briefly, on February 25, 2010. This “apology,” which admitted he had never debated a particular un-named Islamic apologist, was removed from his website a matter of days after it was originally posted.
This incident led to further revelations of simple untruths in the public statements of Ergun Caner regarding his past, who he has allegedly debated, his knowledge of Islam, etc. I had begun making inquiries into Dr. Caner’s alleged “debates” about which he spoke frequently as long ago as 2006. At that time he said they were mainly in colleges and were not recorded. I had found that odd, but at the time had not dreamed that there was any issue relating to the entirety of Ergun Caner’s claims relating to Islam. But in October of 2009, as I was sitting in the Denver airport between flights, I noted the claim on Ergun Caner’s Twitter page that he had debated Islamic leaders (and other leaders of various religious groups) in eleven countries and forty states. This caused me to put out a call on Twitter, and on my blog, asking for help in finding these many debates. That is when I encountered Mohammad Khan’s videos and related materials, all calling into question Dr. Caner’s story.
After the Shabir Ally incident others began to get involved in digging for information. As I listened to more and more of Ergun Caner’s public talks, I became more amazed at what I was hearing. As a student of Islam myself, having debated numerous Islamic apologists in the US, the UK, and recently in Australia, I found his statements very troubling. He would confuse basic Arabic phrases and Islamic concepts. He claimed Ramadan was 40 days long (it is a lunar month); he confused the Shahada and the beginning of Surat al-Fatiha, both Arabic phrases every practicing Muslim would repeat often during the daily prayers (which Caner claimed to have engaged in all the way up to the time of his conversion in high school). Both he and his brother, in their published works, made reference to the Islamic belief that apostates should be executed by referring to “Hadith 9:57.” Anyone who actually works in the field of Islamic apologetics and research knows this is not a valid reference, similar to my saying something like, “You will find that in Bible 3:16.” The Hadith collections have specific names, hence, the correct reference would be “Sahih al-Bukhari 9:57.” No one could find “Hadith 9:57.” How would the Caners, who claim to be experts in Islam, not know this?
Then the chronology issues began to arise. Ergun Caner’s life story is a mass of self-contradiction. His stories strike one as being made up on the fly for the exigencies of the situation, the desires of the audience he is seeking to impress. On the one hand he often mentioned that Emir, his brother, could be President, while he could not, because Emir was born in the United States. But at the same time he claimed to come to the United States in 1978, or 1979, depending on which talk you listen to. But Emir is only four years younger than Ergun, so, that would be impossible. This aspect was particularly troubling, because Ergun would often make this a part of his gospel appeal, claiming he had come here as a young Muslim trained in jihad, a teenager who had always lived in “majority Muslim countries” who thought “you hated me.” He has claimed his English was broken when he came to know Christ, having learned what little English he knew watching the Dukes of Hazzard (a program that did not even air until 1979). He claimed to live in Ankara, Turkey, and then on the border of Turkey and Iraq, and that he came here “via Beirut and Cairo.” He claimed to have trained in the madrassa. He has claimed to know Arabic, and to read the Qur’an. But the reality, as seen in the court documents that have been obtained, is that Ergun was in Ohio at 2.5 to three years of age; while still young a court order was filed that precluded leaving the United States. How would his English be “broken” at his conversion if he was raised in the US educational system?
Gentlemen, there are a large number of direct questions Ergun Caner must answer. Nothing but open and clear explanations, not excuses, will do. I strongly suggest that you ask the following questions of Ergun Caner, and then publish, openly, the responses, for all of these questions flow from his public pronouncements.
1) When did Ergun Caner live in Turkey? Dates, locations, must be provided.
2) What madrassa did he train at in jihad? Where was he a member of the Youth Jihad? When? For how long?
3) Why has he claimed in public to have been born in Istanbul, Turkey, when he was born in Stockholm, Sweden?
4) Why does he claim to be 100% Turkish when his mother is Swedish?
5) Why has he plainly implied he could speak Arabic (in response to the Islamic claim that unless you can read the Qur’an you cannot criticize it) when his mother tongue is Swedish, and he cannot, in fact, read or speak Arabic?
6) How does he explain his presence in Ohio by at the very latest age four, and possibly as early as 2 and a half, as indicated by legal documents?
7) How does he explain his claim to have always lived in Muslim majority countries before coming to the United States? Sweden is not today, and surely was not in 1969, a majority Muslim nation.
8) How does he explain his often published claim to have come to the United States in 1978 or 1979? How can this be seen as anything other than a purposeful distortion necessary for his “I came as a jihadist from Turkey” rather than “I came as a son of a Muslim father and a Swedish mother to Ohio as a small child” persona?
9) Can Ergun Caner prove he was a devout, active Muslim in high school? One that even wore traditional Islamic garb (though that is unusual in Turkey)? Does he have evidence of this in the form of pictures? Some of us have seen pictures of Ergun in his high school yearbook, and none of them show him wearing Islamic dress.
10) Dr. Caner claims in some of his talks that he learned English in Brooklyn. When did he live in Brooklyn, rather than Ohio?
11) How does Dr. Caner explain the fact that he claims to have done his prayers in the bathroom in high school, though that would be highly unusual and in fact either the act of an ignorant Muslim or one in fear of his life?
12) Why did Ergun Caner say Ramadan was forty days long when in fact it is a lunar month in length? If he had ever fasted during Ramadan I can assure you he would know the difference.
13) Why did Ergun Caner on video confuse the Shahada with the opening words of Surat al-Fatiha? Given that both are part of the Islamic prayers, and would have been repeated thousands of times during his youth as a devout Muslim, how could he be confused about such a basic thing?
14) Emir Caner says their mother became a “hippy” upon coming to the United States. Yet Ergun says she wore Islamic clothing until he baptized her. Which is true?
15) Dr. Caner often uses derogatory terms like “towel head” and “sand nigger” of himself, excusing these racial slurs because he claims to be of these ethnic groups. Yet, these are slurs mainly of Arabic people, not of Turkish people; and beyond this, he is only half Turkish, as his mother is Swedish. So why does he engage in this behavior?
16) Dr. Caner has repeatedly said “his family” disowned him upon his conversion. Yet, court records indicate he lived with his mother as custodial parent, not his father; and Emir says that while his father did disown his sons who converted, their mother was basically ambivalent, as she was no longer a Muslim anyway. Is having your non-custodial parent, who has remarried, disown you identical to being disowned by your (entire) family?
17) Dr. Caner has claimed to engage in more than sixty Muslim debates. Where is the evidence of these debates? Who has he debated? What are their names? When did the debates take place?
18) Dr. Caner claimed to have debated Shabir Ally in Nebraska. Caner admitted in February, 2010, that he never debated Shabir Ally. Who, then, did he debate in Nebraska? When? On what topic?
19) Dr. Caner claimed to debate Abdul Saleeb. Abdul Saleeb means “servant of the cross.” So why did he claim to debate a Christian along with Shabir Ally? Was he simply putting Arabic-sounding names together in a line as a means of impressing his audience?
20) Ergun Caner has often, in talks, and in print, referred to “Hadith 9:57.” Since any meaningful citation of the hadith literature requires the use of the name of the actual collection (in this case, Sahih al-Bukhari), does this not show a fundamental ignorance of the most basic elements of scholarly inquiry into Islamic studies on Ergun Caner’s part?
21) Ergun Caner holds a Th.D. in Theology. Why has he often changed the degree to a Ph.D.?
22) Dr. Caner heads up the Global Apologetics program. His claim to have engaged leaders of numerous religions in debate in many foreign countries and all across the United States is directly related to his recruiting of students. Why should his false claims about his past, and his apologetic work, not be considered false advertising and fraudulent?
Gentlemen, I believe nothing less than an open and public explanation of these issues is necessary. If Dr. Caner has meaningful, fair, honest explanations for all of these issues, we will gladly hear them. If he does not, we hope for his confession and apology. Given that the world is now watching (not only the secular world, but the Islamic world as well), nothing less than a full Christian commitment to truth is in order. It is not the “Christian blogosphere” that awaits your report, but the church in general. Thank you.
In His service,
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Update: Gene Clyatt has provided an excellent summary of the issues surrounding the Caner saga here.