Mythili Rao, Associate Producer, The Takeaway
Mythili Rao is an associate producer at WNYC.
What’s so funny about being Muslim in America? Depending on who you ask, quite a bit. Inspired by the scope of Al-Jazeera and the irreverence of The Onion, three young Muslim-American men have launched their own culturally flavored fake news publication: The Hummus.
The result is an online humor site with headlines like “Muslim Daughter Feared Missing After Father Calls 38 Times Within 5 Minutes” and “Conversion Of Ryan Gosling To Islam Halts Arranged Marriages Nationwide” or “Saudi Version of Snow White Features New Mysterious Taller Dwarf, no Snow White.”
The site is still just in its infancy (it launched in December), and its anonymous creators won’t say just how much web traffic it’s getting at this stage. But it’s already caught the notice of the likes of Buzzfeed -- not to mention The Times of Israel and iranian.com.
The anonymous co-founders of The Hummus, "Baba," "Jiddo," and "Kamal" (not their real names) told The Takeaway the site grew out of an organic habit of using humor to make sense of their experiences as first-generation Americans. “We've always been joking as kids, making fun of things that happened to us being the sons of immigrant parents that came to the US to pursue graduate studies,” said Kamal, who works as an analyst at a tech company in San Francisco.
Baba, a law student in Austin and site’s primary writer, said the trio remain sensitive the fine line between funny and offensive. “Writing satire in general can seem to be mocking somebody even if you’re not intending to -- you’re trying to bring light to certain issues,” he said. In the case of The Hummus, Baba, Jiddo, and Kamal say it’s not Islam itself they aim to critique, but the behavior of some of its practitioners.
Who is the site’s target reader? “First and foremost, our audience is English-speaking Muslims,” Jiddo, an analyst at a tech company in San Francisco, says. “They understand the idiosyncrasies the we discuss.” Still, The Hummus team says their readership is eclectic-- and that they’ve gotten encouraging feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims readers alike.
The Hummus ranges from the cozily familial (switch out “Arab” with any number of any ethnicities in “Child At Arab Gathering Summoned From Upstairs Fun, Endures Completion of Parental Departing Ritual” and the story holds) to the pointedly political (“Op-Ed: Egypt’s New Constitution is Best Work of Local 4th Grader’s Writing Career”)-- but steers clear of anything too potentially controversial. There’s a bit of spice, but the blend goes down smooth, just as its name promises.