When you thought it couldn’t get any stranger…well, of course, it does. I got here to Rochester this afternoon, got to my hotel, got on line, and immediately was directed to an internal memo from Liberty Seminary. Now, let me say immediately, I have yet to see verification that this memo is genuine. It looks like it is, and the names and positions are correct (Dave Eppling teaches at Liberty and is described as Caner’s “Chief of Staff” in this Liberty publication) so it looks genuine, but till we can confirm this, take it for what it is: a genuine looking memo that may well give us more insight into what kind of thinking is taking place among the leaders of Liberty University. And if it is genuine, it only illustrates that the problem extends beyond Ergun Caner to those around him as well.
I ocr’d the memo. It claims to come from Dave Eppling, “Chief of Staff to the President, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.”
DEAR SOR FACULTY:
I have been told that recently you received a mass email from a Muslim, attacking me, and including links to his pay YouTube site.
For those of you who have been around here a while, you have seen such things before, involving any number of people at Liberty. I think I received one the first week I came on campus. Nonetheless, I am sorry that you have been “dragged into” this. You are seeing a portion of the life I have to live, sadly.
Most of you know my younger brother, Emir. He is President of Truett-McConnell College, one of the Baptist schools in Georgia. We have faced this type of vitriol for most of our lives. Perhaps recently it has gotten worse, since some Christians (who are no fans of LU, or Dr Falwell) have now joined in the attacks. I never thought I would see the day when alleged “Christians” join with Muslims to attack converts. In fact, it has gotten so bad that they procured or hired someone to go to the courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, to get copies of our parents’ separation, divorce and appeal papers. The purpose of this was to “expose” us as frauds. They wanted to prove that we were not former Muslims. They have actually posted these documents online.
What they ended up doing was proving that we were, in fact, Muslims. The court papers showed that (1) we are immigrants, (2) we were Muslims, (3) our father was so devout that he demanded that the court order that we continue to be raised Muslim, (4) they he wanted visitation on the Eids (Muslim holy days], (5) that we were Turkish citizens and would become American citizens from our Turkish papers, and (6) that our father still had property, money and furniture back in Turkey.
In fact, some of you may have known Jamal Jivanjee, who graduated from Liberty a few years ago. He was saved out of the same Islamic Center, on East Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio. Jamal is now a Christian speaker, and the executive director of Illuminate. The irony is, Jamal knew us as Muslims, because we went to the same Mosque, prayed in the same prayer room, and was taught in the same classrooms as we were. In fact, his family rented an apartment from our father!
Regardless of how this ended up backfiring on them, you can imagine the horror of having your entire life up online, for the joy and derision of others, especially those who should know better.
Again, I apologize you had to be bothered with these skirmishes.
If you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to write me back.
If you wish to see the rebuffing of this Muslim’s arguments, I have answered his claims individually and placed it in a handout. We scoured all ten videos he uploaded, and prepared answers to his objections. Feel free to come by office and pick up a copy.
Now, once again (though for some, it would not matter how many times I repeat this), we can only comment on this memo at the moment as an unconfirmed item that fits the current situation. However, since it raises a number of points that have already been voiced by Dr. Caner’s defenders, let’s examine what it says. If it is verified, then we have already provided interaction. If it is not, then take it for what it is worth.
1) Assuming this is referring to e-mails sent by Mohammad Khan, I do not understand what the text means by “pay” YouTube site. It sounds like you have to pay to watch the videos, but, of course, you do not. This is confusing.
2) It would not be possible for someone to send an e-mail documenting errors in Dr. Caner’s personal claims the first week he was at Liberty. While he had begun making false claims at that point, it seems most have come after his arrival at Liberty. I am unaware of anyone else who has invested the time Mr. Khan has in collecting documentation regarding Dr. Caner’s claims. The text is attempting to make it sound like the current attempts to get Dr. Caner to honestly answer important questions is just another part of some long campaign against him, once again seeking to play the martyr card, in essence. This will come up later. Let me once again emphasize: the reason Dr. Caner needs to come out publicly and explain all these issues is not because he is a convert from an Islamic background (he is), it is because he is President of Liberty Theological Seminary. He is a Christian leader, and as such, is to be held to a certain set of standards regarding truthfulness and honesty. It would not matter in the slightest if he was a life-long Southern Baptist born in Dallas, Texas. If he makes up stories and pawns them off on unsuspecting people, he is to be called to repentance, period.
3) The text seeks to create sympathy on the part of the reader by identifying what Caner is facing as “vitriol.” I will admit that Mr. Khan has more than once given in to a form of mockery in his videos. No question about that. But it is just as obvious that the questions I, and others, are openly asking Dr. Caner to answer have gone far beyond one Muslim’s efforts to expose Ergun Caner as a “fake ex-Muslim.” Let me say it again: I do not believe Ergun Caner is fake ex-Muslim. I believe he is a fake ex-DEVOUT Muslim. There is a difference. There is no question that Ergun Caner’s father was a Muslim. That he was, as Caner claims, a Muslim “leader” is another issue. Clearly Caner considered himself a Muslim. But Caner’s parents divorced when he was quite young, and the real problem is Caner’s attempt to re-form his past so that his devotion to Islam could be exaggerated for the purpose of creating a more stirring testimonial. Now, it takes absolutely positively not an iota of “vitriol” to point these things out.
4) Next we have a classic form of argumentation that seeks to appeal to one’s membership in a group. The text says, “Perhaps recently it has gotten worse, since some Christians (who are no fans of LU, or Dr Falwell) have now joined in the attacks.” Let’s say for a moment that it was true that “some Christians” are “no fans of LU or Dr. Falwell.” So? How is this even slightly relevant? This is again nothing more than an appeal to emotion. It has nothing to do with the truthfulness of the arguments presented or the questions asked, does it? Surely not.
5) “I never thought I would see the day when alleged “Christians” join with Muslims to attack converts.” This is nothing but wild-eyed bluster. Not only does it question the Christian commitment of others without providing the slightest evidence to substantiate such an accusation, but it is joined with a simple untruth: no one is seeking to “attack converts.” This is absurd on a level that is hard to imagine, and part of me truly hopes and prays that it turns out this memo is invalid, because if Ergun Caner would truly stoop this low in an attempt to hide from his own dishonesty…well, what more would need to be said about his fitness to serve in any capacity at all in the church? Further, this “join with Muslims to attack” nonsense must be rejected by any clear-thinking individual. Ergun Caner is not being “attacked” by anyone: he is being challenged to tell the truth in the face of a mountain of documentation indicating he has been untruthful while standing behind the pulpit of many a church. To call such a necessary challenge an “attack” is to do nothing more than mock honesty and integrity itself while appealing to the emotions. What is more, in this situation, may I suggest it is Ergun Caner who has “attacked” converts? How so? By mythologizing his own conversion experience, he has cast doubt upon all those true conversions to Christ from Islam. All of us, no matter who we are, when we modify, exaggerate, mythologize, our former lives, just for the foolish sake of celebrity or the like, we bring disrepute upon all those whose conversion stories are, in fact, amazing. The reality is, all conversion stories are amazing, if we would but focus upon the fact that it is God who converts, not man, and any rebel sinner’s subjection to the Lordship of Christ is a miracle of miracles. I think here again, if these are, in fact, Caner’s words, we have another illustration of “theology matters,” for it is his position that “God elected but I selected,” not mine. I have never felt any need to mythologize and exaggerate my own conversion story.
6) “The purpose of this was to “expose” us as frauds. They wanted to prove that we were not former Muslims. They have actually posted these documents online.” This is simply untrue. Notice the text uses the plural here, attempting to join Ergun and Emir. But the questions about when the Caners came to the US, how old Ergun was, etc., have all been raised by Ergun, not Emir. Surely, the thought has crossed my mind many times, “What does Emir think of Ergun’s claims?” as he surely must know about them. But the fact of the matter is, I know exactly why those documents were obtained. While I was not involved in the process, I know who was, and it had nothing to do with proving the Caners to be “frauds.” It all had to do with the massive contradictions in the timeline created by Ergun Caner’s own claims! Anyone who has honestly read the posts wherein these challenges have been made knows this to be the case. Numerous different dates were provided by Caner’s own claims, varying by as much as a decade, as to when he came to the US, how old he was, etc. It was his own obstinate refusal to openly and honestly answer these questions that led to the investigation of his past in this way (and, may I add, other legal, public sources of information are being examined at this very time, once again due to Caner’s own claims and resultant silence in the face of honest and necessary inquiry).
7) The text seems to be playing on a hoped-for ignorance on the part of the SOR (School of Religion). The text’s feeble attempt at a “ra-ra” style, “look, it backfired because it proved these points,” is simply pathetic. The information was obtained not by a Muslim seeking to prove Caner was never a Muslim, but by Christians seeking to find some kind of way of determining the truth about Caner’s claims regarding where he lived, his “majority Muslim nations” claim, his “trained as a jihadist” claims, his Arabic claims, etc. and etc. It was Caner’s statement that he came to the US thinking we all hated him as a mature teenager, vs. Caner’s claim that his brother, only four years younger, could be President of the US (since he was born here) while he could not, that created all of these contradictions. And you will notice that the text completely avoids all of these issues, evidently hoping that the recipients will be mollified by the creation of yet another myth, this time regarding the nature of the controversy that will never stop swirling around Ergun Caner until he openly and honestly answers the real questions. All of them.
8) No one has questioned that the Caners attended a mosque in Ohio, hence, whether anyone ever saw them there is irrelevant. Remember, the questions have to do with Caner’s claims to have come to the US in 1978/79, having been born in Turkey, coming “via Beirut and Cairo,” training in a madrassa in Turkey, being a devout, practicing Muslim, even saying the daily prayers regularly (in a bathroom in high school no less), etc. and etc.
9) “you can imagine the horror of having your entire life up online, for the joy and derision of others, especially those who should know better.” May I suggest that the only reason anyone has ever had for finding out when Ergun Caner came to the US has to do with Ergun Caner’s own conflicting claims about the matter? If he had told the truth from the start, would anyone have had the slightest reason for inquiring about such matters?
10) Finally, the text speaks of a “rebuffing” (wouldn’t the term be “rebuttal”?) of the Muslim’s arguments. Now, it mentions ten videos—I just checked, and there are seventeen videos posted by Mr. Khan. In any case, if this text is genuine, and again I note we cannot yet say, wouldn’t the appropriate thing be to post such a rebuttal of at least those videos for all the world to see? Why on earth would anyone limit the publication of these truths? Shouldn’t this be front-page news on the Liberty website? If Dr. Caner has answers to all of these questions, questions not only about why he used to say he came to the US in 1979 but now admits it was 1970 (evidently), but questions about his many debates, including his debate with Abdul Saleeb, and how he could mix up key Islamic texts like the beginning of Surah Al-Fatiha and the Shahada, and how he could think Ramadan is 40 days long—those types of questions—then why doesn’t he end all of this, save us all a lot of time, and just tell us all? Why limit this to those who come by his office and pick up a copy? Is this how truth-seekers and truth-tellers operate?
Should we receive verification of the text, we will let you know. Should we get a copy of this “rebuffing,” you can bet we will post that, too. And should we continue getting stone-walling out of Ergun Caner and Liberty University—well, hopefully you get the pattern!