Why did Imran Khan and Glenn Beck join forces?



Popular conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck recently praised Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for intervening to assist his private effort to evacuate American civilians and some of their local allies from Afghanistan. The disclosure of their close cooperation on this mission was very symbolic since it showed that those two were able to put aside their many differences in order to join forces for the sake of saving civilians. Beck himself drew attention to this in the statement that he published to Prime Minister Khan. He wrote:

“Collectively, we transcended religious differences, political divides, national boundaries and local dynamics – united by shared human dignity, it was a humanitarian effort aimed at saving men, women and children, innocent victims facing certain suffering, hardship or worse if left behind in a war-ravaged country where uncertainty, misunderstanding and suspicion remain prevalent…[Prime Minister Khan’s] leadership of placing humanity before politics is a great example of inter-faith cooperation between the faiths”.

Beck and Prime Minister Khan are well known for their Christian and Muslim faiths respectively. In fact, it was due to Beck’s deeply held religious beliefs that he organized this dramatic evacuation mission. He was disgusted by the Biden Administration’s abandonment of fellow Americans and their local allies who’d helped the US military over the past two decades. Beck also believes that the private sector can be much more efficient than the government, which was a political point that he put to the test by trying to save civilians on his own.

As for Prime Minister Khan, his deeply held religious beliefs were why he promptly agreed to cooperate with Beck on this ambitious endeavour. Pakistan has done more than any other country when it comes to saving civilians from Afghanistan. Not only did it open its airspace for such missions, but it also hosted many of those who transited through the country en route to their final destination. Nevertheless, Islamabad hasn’t received much public credit for this due to the West’s desire to scapegoat it for the Taliban’s return to power.

Beck has a controversial reputation in the West for some of the rather unsavoury comments that he’s previously made about Muslims, to put it mildly, which have led to his critics describing him as an Islamophobe. Whatever one wants to call this conservative commentator, it’s now clear that he’s at the very least open-minded enough to cooperate with a prominent Muslim leader like Prime Minister Khan in pursuit of shared humanitarian interests. This is a development that should be applauded irrespective of Beck’s contentious reputation.

In fact, it actually inspires hope if one’s objective enough to think about it. Beck commands enormous influence in many conservative circles that stereotypically aren’t known for being friendly towards Muslims. The very fact that he’d not only work hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Khan on this daring mission but even publicly praise him to the extent that he did should prompt his audience to reconsider their suspicions of Islam and wonder whether maybe they too might have been wrong about this religion and its believers.

As for Prime Minister Khan’s international reputation, he’s always been in favour of working with members of other religions and has consistently treated them with respect. Even so, however, Pakistan continues to be perceived by many abroad as a place whose people are hostile towards non-Muslims. Hopefully this false narrative will lose some of its steam after Beck’s praise of Prime Minister Khan’s assistance for his Afghan evacuation mission.

Overall, the optics of this unexpected interaction between those two influential figures is that prominent representatives of Christianity and Islam pragmatically joined forces to save civilians from Afghanistan. Whatever one’s opinions about their political and other positions might be, they both deserve praise for successfully pulling this off and setting a powerful example of inter-faith cooperation. It would be in the interests of all that these two continue their cooperation and consider expanding it into other domains.

For instance, Beck might be invited to visit Pakistan one of these days in order to see the country that helped him save thousands of people. It would certainly help improve Pakistani-American relations at least in the sphere of public diplomacy if this prominent conservative broadcaster showed his audience what Pakistan and its people are really like, let alone participated in a prospective conference on inter-faith cooperation for example. The Pakistani government should therefore seriously consider this possibility in the future.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)