Omar Amanat

Humiliation/Violence Article


Regarding the attacks of September 11, 2001, it is the one question to which all answers have seemed inadequate. For Omar Amanat, that question has been a deeply personal one. Mr. Amanat is an American Muslim who founded Tradescape Corporation, which had its largest branch office in the World Trade Center. That proximity and his desire to understand the actions of his 19 co-religionists prompted an intense period of thought and study.

The immediate answer seemed too facile, as Mr. Amanat shared in a BOMB Magazine interview. At a private reception Mr. Amanat attended, President George W. Bush and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani were asked to explain the attack. "One of them responded by saying, ‘These people hate us for our freedom, our plenty, and the fact that our women can wear bikinis on beaches’."

Poverty, illiteracy, and the stresses of globalization were likewise too easily cited, particularly since the backgrounds of the attackers were so disparate. However, the 9/11 Commission report contained an intimation of the truth. It stated that the one thing the attackers had in common was an experience of some form of humiliation in the West.

That connection between humiliation and violence was at the heart of Mr. Amanat’s post-9/11 studies. Through books such as Black Rage and Reel Bad Arabs and the writings of sociologist Peter Berger and Harvard psychiatry professor Dr. Alvin Pouissaint, Mr. Amanat learned that members of minority groups derive more of their self-esteem from media images of people like themselves than they do from their own personal interactions with others. And as Jessica Stern found after six years interviewing religious militants and attempted suicide bombers, a sense of perceived humiliation was the closest thing to a unifying thread in explaining their actions. Intrigued by these findings, Mr. Amanat personally commissioned Harvard Medical School to research the physiological effect on minorities of watching images of violence being perpetrated on fellow minorities.

To counter the persistently negative images of Muslims in American entertainment, Mr. Amanat has shifted the focus of his business activities to the world of mass media, specifically the financing of feature films. He has founded or helped finance several film companies, including a $1 billion production and distribution studio.

For more information on Mr. Omanat, please visit