IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Arab Idol Contest Sparks Outrage

Is she the Mideast’s answer to Adam Lambert? Meet Hissa Hilal, a burqa-clad finalist on an Arabic incarnation of American Idol who shocked audiences last week with outspoken criticism of Muslim religious leaders. On the show, called The Million's Poet, contestants perform traditional and original poetry, typically in praise of rulers or with a pastoral theme, but Hilal read a poem blasting religious leaders as "vicious in voice, barbaric, angry, and blind" and as "preying like a wolf" on the peace-seeking people. She also said that fatwas (declarations by imams that can incite violence) were "evil" and twisted "the permitted" into "the forbidden." The housewife and mother of four called her own poetry "provocative," adding that it is "a way to express myself and give voice to Arab women, silenced by those who have hijacked our culture and religion." So it’s not much of a surprise that a slew of death threats against her have appeared on Islamic militant sites.