I went to Debbie's site and read the blogpost in question. Frankly, after reading it, I was shocked. Not at what Debbie had written, but at the phone call from Tim calling upon me to have her remove it. Debbie's post simply asked questions of Dr. Ergun Caner, questions that arose in Debbie's mind after listening to Dr. Caner's own words while he was speaking. Rather than simply answering her questions, it seemed to me that the friends of Dr. Caner were circling the wagons and attacking those who asked uncomfortable questions about discrepancies in Dr. Caner's background. My response to Tim Guthrie's request that I make Debbie remove her blogpost can be read in Comment #26. It's revealing to read what I wrote some two months ago, the very morning I first learned about issues with Ergun Caner (Edit: I should have said in the preceding sentence, ...."the very morning I first had confirmed that there were legitimate issues with Dr. Caner's Muslim background". It has accurately been pointed out in the comment section that I actually learned of Ergun's "alleged" deception two days earlier, on February 18th. Debbie's questions in her post, with actual links to videos and bios, confirmed there were legitimate issues). Later, I received additional phone calls, as did my father, who would eventually hear from Dr. Ergun Caner himself. It was obvious that some people were very upset. In the end, Debbie's blog post was not removed, nor should it have been.
For several weeks after that fateful Saturday, I wrote nothing about Dr. Caner. But after taking time to read many online resources, personally watching videos of Dr. Caner speaking, reading comments and emails from people who knew Dr. Caner prior to 2001, and then looking more closely at Dr. Caner's claim that Dr. Jerry Rankin is a heretic, I became troubled about the Caner issue on two fronts:
(1). Why was Dr. Caner misleading people about the degree of his involvement in Islam, his educational degrees, the number of his alleged "debates" with Muslims, and other things that directly relate to his ongoing ministry as "the" expert on Islam within the Southern Baptist Convention?
(2). Is there wisdom in deeming the "expert" in Islam for the Southern Baptist Convention a man with unreconciled discrepancies in his own talks, biographical data, and alleged "debates" with Muslims when there are dozens of highly qualified and competent International Mission Board missionaries who have been on the front lines of evangelism to Muslims for decades? Why do we make an icon of celebrity instead of seeing as the true heroes of the SBC our front line missionaries in Muslim countries?
The notion that there are no integrity issues that need addressed in Ergun Caner's background is ludicrous. The evidence is irrefutable. Only sychophants and ingnoramuses in the Southern Baptist Convention will deny that there is a problem. Likewise, however, Southern Baptists will be quick to forgive a man (or men) who simply say, "Look, at one time I embellished my academic credentials, the depth of my Muslim upbringing, and the number of "debates" I've held with Muslims around the world. I seek the forgiveness of those I have intentionally misled, and promise to speak the truth about my past from this point forward."
But, there is another issue that has been nagging at me since shortly after that phone call to my home last February. Ergun Caner has a couple of younger brothers. One of them, Dr. Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell, in Cleveland, Georgia is pretty high profile. Does Emir know of his brother's deception? Has Emir participated in the embellishments? Or, has Emir tried to correct his older brother?
Someone might ask, "But why is this an issue?" Well, both brothers are placing themselves as the resident experts of Islam for the Southern Baptist Convention, and both brothers have profited from speaking engagements on the subject. It would seem to me that one of the reasons the wagons are being circled so tightly by those who wish to protect the Caners is because there is so much at stake. Some pretty high profile people have pushed the Caners to the top of the academic world and the speaking circuit of the SBC. If the Caners' integrity is in question, either Ergun's or both Ergun's and Emir's, then there will be some pretty embarrassed high profile Southern Baptists.
This week I received a letter that details either explicit approval and/or illicit endorsement of Ergun's deception by his brother Emir. The letter is posted below, with sources unimbedded.
BEGINNING OF LETTER ....
Emir has been sitting quietly by, while his brother, often in his presence, has made public claims of being born in Istanbul, raised as a wahhabi and a jihadist without ever bothering to object. Emir knew that his brother was spinning a fantastic tale, yet it seems as long as he was also profiting from it, he was happy to go along for the ride.
There were times, though, when Emir ventured into the waters of overt deception himself. Consider Emir’s testimony as provided on his own website http://www.blogger.com/www.emircaner.com
"Imagine being raised with a father who was a muazzin (sic), one who went to the minaret and did the call to prayer. He is the one who melodiously called out 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, God is great! God is great! Come to prayer, come to prayer.'So, we would go to our mosque and would be taught from the Qur'an. We would have our sort of a madras (sic), our Islamic school in which we would have our teachers who would teach us the verses of the Qur'an, the surahs.And our father was not merely a leader within the mosque. He was one of the prominent leaders within the mosque. He was an architect of the mosque. In fact,there he built a mosque as being an engineer himself and an architect. This was the family where we were raised." (Source: Online. Available from Internet, www.EmirCaner.com, "Recent Videos: Dr. Caner's Journey, Part 1," accessed 23 February 2010)
Emir's story sounds heroic and compelling, but under closer scrutiny reveals halftruths, shaded truths, and calculated deceptions in his testimony.
1. Emir was not “raised with a father” at all. He was raised with a mother, a grandmother, and two brothers. According to court divorce records filed in April 1978, Emir’s parents had been “living separate and apart for more than two years.” This means, Emir’s father was out of the house from the time he was only five years old. (Source: Judge George W. Twyford, “Divorce decree, July 1974, In the Court of Common Pleas Franklin County, Ohio.” Online. Available from the Internet at http://www.witnessesuntome.com/caner/caner‐decree‐web.pdf, cited 10 April 2010).
Emir’s father, Acar, was absent from Ergun and Emir’s home, and, in fact, had already remarried by 1977 when Emir was 6 or 7 years old and was now raising a new family. (Source: “DEATHS AND FUNERALS” section of the Columbus Dispatch, p. 7G).
2. Emir's father was not “a muezzin,” at least not as Emir claimed. The Islamic Center on Broad Street where the Caners claim to have worshipped each weekend had no muezzin. The president of the Islamic Center, Rustum Ali,said, "We had no muezzin. We simply asked whoever was around to call everyone to prayer." (Source: Phone conversation with Rustum Ali, president of the Islamic Center, the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, on 23 February 2010).
3. Despite Emir’s colorful imaginings, even if his father had been a muezzin, he could not have gone “to the minaret” because the Caners’ place of worship had no minaret. It was an old converted mansion constructed in 1903. According to Islamic Center president, Rustum Ali, Columbus city ordinances would not allow the construction of a minaret because the building was a historic site.
4. The boys never attended a “madras” (sic) or Islamic school as Emir claims,because the Islamic Center at 1425 E. Broad Street, had no “madrasa,” or “Islamic school.” Again, quoting the president of the Center, “We have never had a madrasa, only Sunday Sabbath School from 11 am to 1 pm. There we would teach the children how to pray, about our faith, and so forth.” (Source: In a phone conversation with Islamic Foundation president, Rustum Ali, the president said, “Oh no, we never had a madrasa in our building. All we had was Sunday Sabbath School from 11 to 1 pm, to teach the children how to pray.” Phone conversation, 23 February 2010).
5. Emir strains to support Ergun's claim that his father, Acar, built the Islamic Center on Broad Street, but perhaps knowing that this is not true, he modifies the testimony slightly to say that, "he (Acar) built a mosque." In fact, the Islamic Center, the Islamic Foundation on Broad Street was constructed in 1903, more than half a century before Acar arrived in Ohio.
6. The statement, "This was the way our family was raised," caps off the deception. There was no muezzin, there was no minaret, their parents had already divorced and, by the time Emir was six or seven years old, his father had already remarried and started a new family. Were the story not crafted for such self‐serving purposes, one might actually feel sympathy for the Caner brothers.
Emir also appears to have fabricated stories about his witnessing escapades. In a March 2004 article in Christianity Today, Emir casually says, “I speak weekly to American Muslims who say they realize Islam isn't the way to heaven.” (Source: Emir Caner to Corrie Cutrer in “The Muslim Next Door,” Christianity Today, March 2004. Online. Available on the Internet at http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2004/marapr/6.44.html cited 23 February 2010)
Could this be an exaggeration? When asked about his converts and fruit from the Muslim world in 2005, Emir Caner admitted to the author, “I am not an evangelist. I am not a church planter. I am an academic.” This was his response to the question, “What methods are you using to share the gospel with Muslims and start new churches?”
In 2005, a year after purportedly speaking “weekly to American Muslims who say they realize Islam isn’t the way to heaven,” Emir could point to no converts whatsoever.
The truth is, Emir appears to spend virtually all of his time either in his study writing books, or surrounded by Christians, to whom he sells the books. Despite Ergun’s claim, with Emir’s silent consent, that the two of them have debated Muslims all over the world, there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.
While Emir doesn’t refute his brother’s claims, neither does he buttress them on his own extensive biographical websites (http://www.emircaner.com/). Nonethless, Emir has managed to gain a reputation among at least one of his peers, Dr. Keith Eitel of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for bold confrontational witness to Muslims. According to the SBC Today BLOG, Keith Eitel is quoted as having said, that Emir Caner is a bold and confrontational witness in the mosque:
SBC Today: ‘In witnessing to Muslims, I know that when your brother got inaugurated down at Truett McConnell, Dr. Eitel talked about your brother's unique witnessing method. He would walk into a mosque and find the iman (sic) and say, 'I am an infidel!' Is that the kind of mission emphasis that you guys do at Liberty also?"So the reserved academic has embellished his reputation as one who “walk(s) into a mosque and find(s) the imam” to declare to him, “I am an infidel!” This certainly doesn’t mesh with what he told the author in 2005 when asked about the fruit of his evangelism efforts. Nor does it jibe with the first‐hand experience of IMB missionaries in Chiang Mai, Thailand who took a course on Islam under Emir Caner in the summer of 2009.
Ergun made no disclaimers, instead affirming his brother’s alleged bold technique: “I have no problem with using anything like that." (Source: Unnamed host of SBC Today in conversation with Ergun Caner on SBC Today 3 Feb 2010. Online. Available on the Internet at http://sbctoday.com/2010/02/03/podcast‐episode‐21/ accessed 8 February 2010).
A couple of IMB missionaries made it a point to go with Emir so that they could learn how he conducted Muslim evangelism. The following information came from one of those missionary students (Source: Email from one of Emir Caner’s students from Caner’s summer class on Islam in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2009. Subject: “RE: Emir's use of the Q” dated 9 February 2010).
1. Emir certainly did not, as the SBC Today podcast boasts, walk into the mosque, find the imam, and announce, "I am an infidel."
2. The student reported that Emir probably used the Qur’an more than the imb students did. But Emir used it to try and start an apologetic debate that he believed would destroy the Qur'an and win the contest. The IMB students used the Qur’an to try and bridge the Muslims into the gospel, similar to the Camel method. One of the IMB personnel "asked him (Emir) the question, ‘What do I do if a Muslim says he doesn’t know the Qur'an and that I should go talk to the Imam? Can I show it to him?’(Emir's)
Answer from Emir Caner: “I would walk them through the Qur'an and ask questions they can’t handle”
"He mentioned he frequently would ask the Muslims to give him a section of the Qur'an to read and he would give them a section of the Bible to read and they would agree to come back together later to discuss it."
3. Though Emir had criticized IMB missionary efforts at contextualization for being a compromise with the false religion of Islam, Emir made his own cultural accommodations to the mosque, by veiling his wife, keeping her out of the prayer room, and referencing Qur'anic verses to initiate conversations with Muslim worshippers. When asked about this, Emir said these accommodations were not bridges (which he had condemned), but rather cultural "points of contact." "Points of contact" appears to be Caner's politically correct substitute for what Camel practitioners call "bridges."
4. Emir admitted to his students that though his approach can lead into the gospel it seldom does. According to two different IMB missionaries who ventured into the mosque with Caner, Emir never got to the gospel in his attempt at apologetic debate.
5. (During his time speaking) “he [Caner] was not able to lead into a Gospel presentation or attempt to leave them a tract or Injil (New Testament) using his approach at either place."
6. Emir said that his ministry to Muslims is to accept referrals from other believers who have been sharing with Muslims that are already seekers, and then expose them to the lies from a former insider's point of view. He says his is not an evangelistic or apostolic ministry (Source: Email correspondence from “anonymous IMB missionary to the author, 9 February 2010)
Given these accounts of Emir’s awkward and ineffective witness to Muslims in Thailand, it is difficult to imagine Emir Caner ever walking into a mosque, seeking out the imam and declaring, “I am an infidel!”
Emir Caner may be a more cautious fake than his boisterous brother, but he is a fake nonetheless. Like his brother, he has used his fraudulent notoriety to elevate his own celebrity and currency within the Evangelical world, while undermining and attacking legitimate Christian witnesses to Muslims both in America and around the world.
END OF LETTER ...
One might expect that self-proclaimed experts in Islam, men like the Caner brothers, would offer criticisms of the International Mission Board and President Jerry Rankin for the Southern Baptist missionary work that has been taking place among Muslims around the world for the past several decades. But those criticisms are deeply ironic when they are attached with a claim that the IMB President is a heretic and a liar. One can hope that the majority of Southern Baptists will reject the ungodly emphasis on celebrity, star power and the errors associated with it, and remain consistent with our emphasis on both biblical and personal truth.
In His Grace,
Postscript: One of Emir's friends, a fellow pastor in the SBC, has called me and spoken highly of Emir's evangelism to Muslims. He told me that two young women in his church, former Muslims, were converted to Christ through the patient evangelism of Emir Caner. I believe this pastor is telling the truth, and in fairness to Dr. Emir Caner, wanted to balance out the questions raised by the missionary in the letter with the report of this pastor.
To the pastor's credit, he too, voiced hope that the questions being raised regarding discrepancies in the Caner brothers' background will be satisfactorily answered in the near future, but felt compelled to rebut the suggestion that Emir Caner has no practical experience in leading Muslims to faith in Christ.