In a country that uses the Koran as its official constitution and is, for all intent and purposes, an Islamic state, a pair of Saudi Arabian female poets have recited controversial works on a game show called Poet of Millions, which is apparently the Saudi equivalent to American Idol with poetry as the lauded craft, rather than music.
The woman, named Hissa Hilal, in her poem critized Muslim clerics for “terrorizing people and preying on everyone seeking peace.” Here is an excerpt from her poem:
I have seen evil from the eyes of the subversive fatwas in a time when what is lawful is confused with what is not lawful;
When I unveil the truth, a monster appears from his hiding place; barbaric in thinking and action, angry and blind; wearing death as a dress and covering it with a belt [referring to suicide bombing];
He speaks from an official, powerful platform, terrorizing people and preying on everyone seeking peace; the voice of courage ran away and the truth is cornered and silent, when self-interest prevented one from speaking the truth.
Hilal said she was
inspired by what she called “subversive” fatwas, specifically one issued by Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al Barrak, a Saudi cleric, on his website last month.
Her recital on the Abu Dhabi TV show last week sparked controversy in Saudi Arabia, especially on internet forums. According to reports, many viewers praised her for her courage, but others attacked her for criticising clerics and reciting her poems in public. One website called for her death.
But Ms Hilal defied the threats, delivering a similar poem on Wednesday’s show – and she received the highest score of the round, 47 out of 50.
The judges praised Ms Hilal’s courage for expressing her opinion “honestly and powerfully”. By reaching the final, she is guaranteed a prize of at least Dh1 million (US$270,000).
Sheikh al Barrak’s fatwa had called for the execution of anyone who says mixing of sexes is allowed in Islam because “he is allowing what is not allowed, and therefore he is a kafir who left the religion and should be killed if he does not change his opinion”.
Another female, reported by The Lede, named Aydah al-Aarawi al-Jahani competed in the show
mounting pressure from family and tribe members, in Saudi Arabia, to resign from the competition due to the fact that she is female.
And she should be lauded for standing up to the theocratically-mandated sexism and anti-intellectualism she no doubt lives with every day of her life. Here is a video of al-Jahani competing:
I can’t help with the Arabic though.