So Ergun Caner, the dweeb in my hierarchy of ex-Muslims, is now being actively investigated by his home institution, Liberty University. It seems that while Liberty does give its faculty a fair amount of “theological leverage,” it gets nervous when people start questioning the truth of what their faculty say.
Liberty is launching an investigation into Caner’s life story, based on newspaper and blog accounts questioning the details of his claims to have been a budding Islamic terrorist in his youth, only to find salvation in Christianity. The university launched the probe shortly after AlterNet published a piece by Peter Montgomery, which lays out the misrepresentations in Caner’s biography —one he uses relentlessly before evangelical audiences as proof of the superiority of Christianity (and particularly, evangelical Christianity) over Islam.
It seems that Caner moved to Ohio at the age of 8, well before he could have been “indoctrinated” to commit violent acts of jihad, as he claims. He did convert to Christianity as a teenager, as did most of his family. So far, this last point seems to be the only independently verifiable part of his account.
Liberty already had to correct its website with Caner’s “mis-stated” academic credentials. He apparently attempted to highlight his “exoticness” by using the name “Mehmet” in public, but “Michael,” or “Butch” in private. He told sexist and racist jokes during his sermons. All of these actions seem like someone desperate to fit in; someone seeking acceptance. To further build his brand, Caner claims to have a “devout” Muslim upbringing, which he never seems to demonstrate, apparently getting many details wrong that any practicing Muslim would know. He also claims to have debated major Muslim scholars on theological points, but for which there is no evidence.
However, to me the most interesting point of the debate that Liberty is creating by not dealing with the Caner issue directly is the damage it can cause Christian believers. From Montgomery’s article:
So Caner’s deception is not “ethical” or “moral.” If I were a lost person, this would be a huge step forward in my belief that Christianity itself is a lie, and Christian leaders are mostly hypocritical charlatans selling their spiritual elixirs, whose “ethical” and “moral” standards are much lower than the average non-Christian.
It seems that by protecting an “ex-Muslim,” Liberty may end up creating a lot of “ex-Christians.”