After far-right US radio host Glenn Beck took to Twitter with words of praise for the role played by Prime Minister Imran Khan in helping Afghan refugees escape as Taliban fighters took over that country, controversy broke out on Pakistani social media.
Glenn Beck is known as a popular US conservative figure whose brand was built around his radio show and his harsh attacks on groups traditionally targeted by the American right-wing. At one point in the past decade, it is estimated that his radio show drew an audience of some 6.5 million people.
The far-right US commentator is particularly well known for his attacks on progressives, who he sees as being driven by a radical socialist agenda. His other target of choice have been Muslims: a minority which he sees from the prism of the US right-wing talking-points. He is also known for his hard-line advocacy in favour of Israel and its military actions against Palestinian Arabs and others.
Beck has often come under criticism for promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. The critics say that his rhetoric consists of exaggerations, distortions and outright false claims which encourage demonisation and discrimination against Muslims in the US and elsewhere in the West. According to watchdog Islamophobia Network,
“Glenn Beck’s radio show boasts more than 6 million listeners weekly. This is to say that 6 million people are privy to Beck’s tendency to equate Muslims with terrorism, and his fabricated speculations as to the number of Islamic terrorists in the United States.
Beck regularly engages in fear mongering and hate against Muslims on his program. The most egregious example of false reporting—fueled by straightforward profiling—was the instance when Beck spent days on his radio program falsely claiming that a Saudi student, Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, was a terrorist operative who had planned and collaborated in the Boston marathon bombings.”
His 2015 book It IS About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran and the Caliphate was described as “terrifying” in a review for Salon. Author Matthew Pulver writes:
“It’s a two-front war for Beck, against wayward secularism at home and a sort of holy war versus Islam. What Beck describes as a reversion to strict religious rule in the Middle East can only be met with our own reversion to Christian nationalism. Beck’s television and radio shows are regularly platforms for discussion of Christian nationalism.”
Two perspectives have emerged among commentators on social media. One side believes that regardless of his political views, Beck's praise for Prime Minister Imran Khan's role and Pakistan should be well-received and appreciated. The other perspective argues that this sudden praise for Pakistan is part of an internal dynamic in the US, with right-wing partisan voices attacking President Joe Biden, and so Beck's links to Islamophobia and a far-right agenda should be highlighted rather than downplayed.
Federal human rights minister Shireen Mazari is among those who took the former view, joined by a number of other commentators:
Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI has given priority to a humanitarian approach on Afghanistan esp viz the Afghan ppl & foreigners in Afgh needing assistance --- one example below. Glenn Beck shares in his own words: pic.twitter.com/dIeBX4v6U9
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) September 20, 2021
Glenn Beck praising Imran Khan is significant. It has a local, American context - bashing Biden. However, this represents (at least to some extent) the GOP’s willingness to engage Pakistan. Reminder: Republicans have historically had closer working relationships with Pakistan.
— Shahab Siddiqui (@HashUrTag) September 20, 2021
Thank you @glennbeck for acknowledging this. Perhaps Washington can also bring itself to give credit where it's due - to Pakistan & it's PM @ImranKhanPTI instead of trying to scapegoat it for America's own failures in Afghanistan https://t.co/EtmAJcqF2u
— Fahd Husain (@Fahdhusain) September 20, 2021
What's the issue? I mean isn’t it quite an achievement that even someone like Glenn Beck feels compelled to appreciate Pakistan for its positive role in the evacuation? Why these OTT reactions from the usual outrage brigade? No one is praising Beck, it is about PM Khan's humanity
— Mehr Tarar (@MehrTarar) September 20, 2021
Bro! No one is praising GleNn Beck. We are just sharing HIS praise for the humanitarian efforts of Pakistan’s Prime Minister & Pakistan’s civil/military agencies.
And yes. He is a bigot. Therefore, all the more reason to publicise praise from such a ‘bigot’ to make our point. https://t.co/EelRvDL8om
— Saad Saeed (@SaadSaeed2) September 20, 2021
Critics of this view include a number of commentators, including academics and journalists. They have highlighted Glenn Beck's unsavoury role against Muslims and in support of far-right causes in the US, wrote against the idea of welcoming his endorsement for Pakistan.
This is the link to Glenn Beck's book against Islam. He has caused a lot of suffering to Muslims and their allies in the US. https://t.co/LkPM0zl2SN
— Ammar Ali Jan (@ammaralijan) September 20, 2021
While we should certainly applaud the PM's humanitarian intervention for vulnerable Afghans, it's important to understand Glenn Beck's motives.
There's a reason for separating the deed (IK's) from the person (GB) applauding the deed.
A thread. https://t.co/tYhbMJS6N9
— Amber Rahim Shamsi (@AmberRShamsi) September 20, 2021
Pakistan has been the focal point of Afghan evacuations. I know that because I am working with people who are facilitating the process. I generally do not need Glenn Beck tweets to feel pride. But I am sorry about infringing on this great moment of celebration. Please continue.
— Aimun (@bluemagicboxes) September 20, 2021
Good morning. And please Google Glenn Beck before fanning over him (