Consider the brave poetry written by Hissa Hilal, a 43 year old Saudi woman pictured above. Hilal was a finalist on the most popular TV show in the Arab world, a reality show called "The Million's Poet." The show is so popular, 70 million viewers tuned in for the finals.
Before I consider Hilal's extra-ordinary courage, let's take a minute to think about 70 million viewers watching a Poetry competition. (To give a rough point of comparison 48 million viewers watched "at least part of" the national championship game pitting Butler University against their opponent). Look: I like the Justin Bieber as much as the next guy (i.e., not at all), but putting aside questions of taste these staggeringly different viewership numbers alone suggest a profound cultural difference in the way language is valued in our two cultures, don't they?
Back to Hilal: Despite being the first woman finalist ever, and hailing from a religiously conservative country, she used her poems to lash out against extremism, radical clerics, and terrorism. She received death threats against her own life and those of her four children. Yet, she refused to back down.
According to the Daily Guardian, this is a rough English translation of one of her poems:
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, terrorising 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.
Spoiler alert: Hilal finished third and took home $817,000. (So, don't enroll in business school just yet, kids. This month at least think seriously about poetry!).