It’s the Evangelical Rathergate! Ergun Caner is an evangelical apologist who rose to fame after 9-11 on the strength of his biographical narrative: raised as a devout Muslim, he spent his youth as a would-be jihadist until he accepted Christ. He parlayed that story, and his credentials as an authority on Islam, into a speaking and writing career before becoming Dean of Liberty University’s seminary. But an investigation reveals that a lot of the story is fictional.
What makes this story so interesting is that he’s terrible at playing a Muslim. Or, more accurately, that he got as far as he did while being so terrible. Check out these videos, posted by one of the bloggers who’s been on this for a while: he gets the Shahada wrong. He thinks there are 40 days in Ramadan. He confuses “insha’Allah” and “alhumdulillah.” The Christian equivalent would be like saying Jesus rose on Christmas– just a straight-up, WTF howler to anyone who’s even casually Muslim.**
And yet this is a guy who goes around telling people about Islam. The only reason it worked is that his audience is pretty self-selected: how are they supposed to know that he’s reciting the wrong Arabic or just making stuff up? They have no idea. The story he tells squares with what they want to hear, and there’s no reason for suspicion. But this phenomenon has a natural limit since, as he becomes more famous, he’ll bump into people who can see he’s full of crap, which is more or less what happened. Once the initial stray threads are pulled, the unravelling happens fast, because a lot of this stuff is online, from high school pictures to legal documents. Even without that, an actual in-the-community interlocutor laughing at the guy is pretty potent antidote.
*The Jewish equivalent would be…hmm, make your own anti-Semitic jokes, I’m too sincere.
** e.g., your bomb-belt doesn’t match your shoes.