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:
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.