Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Hissa Hilal

I want to say something to the world. . . give hope. . . 
if you dream in your heart, one day if you believe deeply
 in your heart, in God, it will happen.
~ Hissa Hilal*

Clad head-to-toe in a black abaya, in full niqab, Saudi Arabian Hissa Hilal, 43, poet and mother of four, found courage to "unveil" her truth about the "evil" of religious and social extremism. A finalist in the Abu Dhabi television show "Million's Poet", she recited her verse — "The Chaos of Fatwas" — March 31 before a packed audience of men and women, the one separated from the other. Not given to odes to the desert, she delivered a stinging rebuke to the powerful clerics who are "ready to attack anyone who wants peace".

Hilal took advantage of an opportunity few women in her society have. First, she chose to compete, an act itself considered a form of rebellion, her passion for poetry previously kept secret. Second, she chose to use her voice to show that even one person speaking out loud may be enough to help others understand that anything is possible. For Hilal, the others she hoped to reach are the "girls and ladies" who look like her. 

Following her stunning appearance on "Million's Poet", which has been shown around the world, including in the Middle East, Hilal has received death threats and been called "a low woman" and "a hooker", and worse. She understands the possible price she may pay for her brand of reality tv.

I send you meaning like rain to defeat fear. 
Do not fear his snake hiss. You have a waving wing
when you fly. No one can reach you in the sky.

Hilal was given third place in the competition (60 percent of judges' votes; 40 percent of audience votes). Her husband gets to decide how the prize money — approximately $817,000 — will be spent. 

* Quoted in "Person of the Week: Poet Hissa Hilal", April 9, 2010

Video of Hilal reciting her poem and being interviewed (I chose this video from the many on YouTube because it provides a translation in English and a more in-depth interview with Hilal.)

An interesting group of posts about Hilal is here.

ABC News video feature on Hissa Hilal

Diane Sawyer's feature and an interview


katdish said...

Wow. We really do take so much of our liberties for granted here. What a brave woman. Thanks for the introduction to her.

Louise Gallagher said...

WoW. What a powerful story -- and what an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing her story. What amazes me is I sit here in sunny Alberta -- and never even knew she existed until this morning. Didn't know there was a woman doing what she is doing. There are so many wonders in this world!

Courage is a mother willing to speak out against hatred.

Kathleen Overby said...

The poet may die but the words never. This woman is brave. Thanks.

Pam said...

I'd like to use your post on my blog. It would be the first guest post I've used on, a site where I honor extraordinary women. Take a look and let me know. I also welcome your other readers to visit my site, look around, leave comments, and suggestions for other women for me to honor on the site. I'd also love it if you'd view the preview of my book and the Amazon site (links on the right of my web site) to read about the extraordinary lives of three contemporary American women.