Hissa Hilal’s Poem Against Extremism

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Hissa Hilal, right after she made news headlines all over the world through the Abu Dhabi TV Show, Million’s Poet.

The people of the Arabian Gulf have a deeply rooted century-old tradition and a love for reciting poetry. In an effort to revive this beautiful art, The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage launched a reality TV show (very much like American Idol) named Million’s Poet.  Poets compete from all over the Gulf region, writing and reciting various forms of bedouin and arab poetry. The winner of the show receives 1 Million Dirhams.

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi housewife, stood up on a podium and recited a poem in front of millions of viewers. This poem openly attacked a Saudi cleric for his “ad hoc” fatwas; naturally the poem instantly sparked controversy in Saudi Arabia. Some viewers praised her for her courage, but some also criticized her for speaking publicly and “attacking Islam”. Hissa also received death threats.

As the show is shot in Abu Dhabi, we managed to get Hissa to come into our studio to recite the poem herself.  She’s definitely one of the bravest more inspiring and warmest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Talking to her firsthand, I could see the hope she had for positive reform in her country.

If you’re wondering how those dreamy shots came to be, some shots in this video were shot with lensbaby on a Canon 5DMKII.