The Hummus began as a blog, but its sharp wit and evolution into a satirical news site has earned it the title of "the Muslim Onion."
With headlines like "Conversion Of Ryan Gosling To Islam Halts Arranged Marriages Nationwide" and "Muslim Daughter Feared Missing After Father Calls 38 Times Within 5 Minutes," it's no surprise the site is growing in popularity, especially among Muslim Americans.
The three people behind the site insist on anonymity but use the aliases Baba, Kamal and Jiddo. They told Metro the goal is to use humor to shed light on real life issues Muslims in America face, from Islamophobia to generational gaps.
Team Hummus: One of us sat down one day and started writing a blog. I guess he felt particularly sarcastic that day (we all have those days, and sometimes they are awesome). He started receiving messages from those close friends about the content being 'on point' and 'so true.' At first, it was just something to enjoy between friends and acquaintances, but people really began to appreciate the messages behind the satire as well as the writing itself. This was in July of 2013.
Fast forward to December. We're all gathered together at a friend's home to watch a football game (we're huge fans. And yes, the result of the Super Bowl has fundamentally changed us) when one of the founders (not the original blog-writer) mentioned aloud a "funny blog" that he had stumbled upon. It was The Hummus. The blog-writer/founder was present. There was a moment of "dude, that's totally my blog" that washed over the room. We talked about it, became equally giddy, and eventually decided this blog could be an outlet for expressing the frustrations that we had as Muslims in America experiencing Islamophobia, the conflation of culture with religion (both here and oversees), and the funny results that we can all relate to.
Did you consciously model yourself after The Onion? Do you take it as a compliment that the site is being labeled the "Muslim Onion"?
We've noticed some people referring to us as the 'Muslim Onion' or 'Muslim-American Onion' on occasion. We certainly are huge fans of The Onion and what they have done, and so it's an honor to be compared to them. We welcome that comparison and hope Muslims will come to appreciate and relate to our content.
How many people are behind the site? How much content are you putting out?
There are three of us at the moment. The site is relatively young and we've been planning our expansion based on the interests of our fans and the advice of wiser journalists/editors before us. Our content comes out at a rate of approximately three to four articles a week, with some weeks having more and others less. We foresee this changing as the site begins to expand. We are not journalists actually, and only one of us writes the articles. We all take part in the editing and deliberation process. We're very happy with what we've been able to do with our resources and are excited about our potential.
What kinds of issues to you hope to address through the site and why do you believe humor might be the best approach?
We hope to address a wide range of issues pertinent to Muslims and their lives. The conflation of culture with religion, generational gaps, Islamophobia, authoritarianism, and funny idiosyncrasies. We hope we can bring these issues to light while allowing every person who reads our content to relate to it how they like. The more the merrier! We think humor is one of the best sources of social commentary in modern society. Countless comedians and satirists shed light on real issues by pointing out practices and behaviors that border on the irrational and absurd. Sometimes, its just an easy way to bring everyone into the same room and engage them with a smile. We hope our humor can do the same.
Have you received any criticism for the satirical nature of your content? Do you worry there are some things that shouldn't be joked about? Is anything off-limits?
We haven't received any serious admonition about the satirical nature of our content. There has been a stray comment here or there regarding certain topics that specific individuals are more sensitive about, but no one has spoken up against us, nor do we think that will happen in the near future. The way we see it, a conversation is being had about whether satire is appropriate or not is still a conversation to have.
Yes, there are limitations, though we don't see them as such. We try our very best not to criticize Islam itself, the religion divorced from the Muslims who practice it. It's not easy distinguishing between behavior and core doctrine. But there are some easy sign posts; some basics that I think most people would agree upon. We don't criticize God, we don't criticize the Prophet, or any debatable religious figures. Despite being a satirical website, we have our own values to contend with.
What are your plans for the site? How big do you see it getting in the future?
We're getting good engagement from the demographic that we initially set out to target and more, so we're very excited about the site's growth potential. We plan to continue focusing written content and improving responsiveness to contemporary news items as well as number of articles published per week. We can imagine expanding to different media forms in the future, but for now, we really want to make sure our written content is always up to date and quick to respond to world events.