Ergun Caner Update

Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary, continues to come under scrutiny over discrepancies in his biography, and his claim to have converted from extremist Islam (see my blog entry here). A few days ago, the university issued a statement:

Following inquiries from several members of the mainstream media, Liberty decided to initiate its own investigation. “Liberty does not initiate personnel evaluations based upon accusations from Internet blogs,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said. “However, In light of the fact that several newspapers have raised questions, we felt it necessary to initiate a formal inquiry.”

By “accusations from Internet blogs”, Falwell means serious evidence and links provided by various people – some of whom are well-known Christian speakers and writers themselves – which cast serious doubt on Caner’s alleged past. The fact he would try to spin the story in this way does not bode well.

However, one defender has apparently stepped forward – a statement has been posted on-line at this Southern Baptist blog, attributed to Jamal Jivanjee, another ex-Muslim Christian:

My name is Jamal Jivanjee, and I was born and raised in the greater Columbus Ohio area. My mother is an American & my father was born and raised in East Africa and is of Asian Indian decent. My father was a devout Muslim and we attended functions at the same mosque/ masjid that Ergun, Emir, & his family attended on east Broad street in Columbus, Ohio. Ergun & Emir’s father, Mr. Acar Caner, was a very prominent leader within the Islamic community that we associated with and was very involved with this mosque. As a result, I remember as a young child going to their home with my family to have dinner with their family. Mr. Acar Caner was also the acting landlord of the apartment community where my family and I lived for a number of years…

Curiously, the owner of the blog does not explain why the statement has been passed to him, and there is no reference to it on Jivanee’s “Illuminate” ministry website.

While Southern Baptist bloggers are hailing this as an exoneration of Caner, not everyone is convinced – a Reformed blogger named Francis Turretin writes:

It would be interesting to know what approximate year Mr. Jivanjee remembers visiting the Acar house. From what I could find on the Internet, Mr. Jivanjee is about 35 years old, meaning he was born about 1975. As such, in November of 1982 (the date Caner indicates as his conversion), Mr. Jivanjee would have been about 7 years old.

…Notice that Mr. Jivanjee doesn’t say he or his family regularly attended or worshiped at the Broad St. Islamic Foundation, but just that they “attended functions” there… Notice as well that Mr. Jivanjee does not claim to have personally known Ergun and Emir, but just to have dined once with Mr. Acar Caner and “his family” (which may well have referred to Mr. Caner’s second wife and daughters).

Some of Dr. Caner’s fans seem to think that Mr. Jivanjee’s comments above prove that Dr. Caner was not just from a Muslim family but a devout Muslim, and that this evidence exonerates Dr. Caner from all the accusations of dishonesty that have been swirling around him. The problems are (1) that’s not what Mr. Jivanjee says and (2) it doesn’t appear that Mr. Jivanjee, being only about 7 years old and in a different branch of Islam at the time Dr. Caner apparently converted, would have been in a position to know whether Dr. Caner was a devout Muslim.

Jivanjee was in the news last summer, as part of the Rifqa Bary saga. He was her pastor in Ohio, and claims that supernatural power manifests through her:

Each time we met with her, I left a changed person. This young girl not only lived out the kingdom of God in word, but in deed! The Lord has used her to physically and spiritually heal people, and bring people into a relationship with God everywhere she has went. She has done this in places like high school, summer jobs, and more recently…jail cells. I do not say these things to brag about her, but to brag about the reality and power of Jesus in her!

He also went to Florida, where he was interviewed by Pamela Geller.

Caner also contributed to the Bary story, with a bit of commentary about Sri Lanka in September:

Liberty Theological Seminary president Dr. Ergun Caner told Christians attending the Values Voter Summit in Washington Saturday that if Bary is returned to her parents and they move back to Sri Lanka, she will be killed because “Sri Lanka puts my people to death.”

This is revealing. When someone comes to prominence as an authority based on their supposed private histories, if they are genuine they will keep to what they know about.  By contrast, chancers tend eventually to over-reach themselves by pronouncing on subjects about which they have no expertise at all – I saw this in relation to Walid Shoebat here.  Sri Lanka does not put Christian ex-Muslims to death – insofar as there is religious discrimation, the country favours Buddhists. There’s no real risk of an honour killing there, either.