In the Western world, almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, and after many thousands of other terrorist attacks by Muslims, why are Western publics still so ill-informed about Islam?
One reason has to do with the way people now find out, not only about Islam, but about so much else. The Internet has helped foster the Age of Distraction, of Triviality, of Hectic Vacancy. We are all now victims of heedless ephemerality, which gets in the way not only of learning about Islam, but of learning about anything. Think of the passing parade of online stories, where the Insects of An Hour take up so much of our attention — how many billions of man-hours are spent clicking on sites that the whirligig of time proffers: something about Jennifer Aniston today, and something about Jennifer Lawrence tomorrow; an invitation to take a gander and gawk at the photographs showing us just how breathtakingly beautiful George Clooney’s house in Italy is, or that of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt in the Hollywood Hills. And surely you need to know what John Travolta tweeted yesterday, or Shaquille O’Neal the day before that, on the subject of racism at the Oscars. And then there are Dr. Oz’s miracle creams, which have done so much for Cher, and Demi Moore, and Meryl Streep – you mustn’t miss that. And then there are the indispensable lists, for which you click and click away: the fifty richest people in the world; the ten most livable cities for retirees in America; the fourteen favorite hobbies of Heisman Trophy winners; the six most tried-and-true recipes for pumpkin pie; and so on, and so idiotically forth. How much time do you have left to find out about Islam?