Hissa Hilal, a Saudi housewife and a contestant in an American-Idol-style poetry competition, read an incendiary 15-verse poem that criticized clerics who issue ever-more-restrictive fatwas, and referred to clerics as monsters "wearing death as a robe, cinched with a belt."

Yes, that was a reference to suicide bombers, in case you were wondering.

And for Hilal's efforts, the judges scored her 47/50, and she progressed to the finals. She's guaranteed a prize of at least $270,000.

Of course, there have been death threats. But, Hissa told the Abu Dhabi paper The National, "Like anyone who receives a threat to scare him or her, I take it seriously, but only slightly."

Meanwhile, one cleric whose unofficial fatwa, or religious opinion, inspired Hissa to her rhetorical feat is back-tracking. Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al Barrak, a fellow Saudi, released a statement on his website last month calling for anyone who allows or even supports the mixing of the sexes to be executed, because, in The National's translation, "he is allowing what is not allowed, and therefore he is a kafir (apostate) who left the religion and should be killed if he does not change his opinion."

Now al Barrak says his edict was "misinterpreted" by his students and "inaccurately" posted.

"What made me so angry is seeing the Arab society becoming more and more kept to itself, not like before - loving and caring and sharing and open and welcoming everyone," Hilal told the BBC. "Now, even if you want to be simple and nice with others, people are asking themselves whether it is haram (forbidden) to say hello to strangers."

Hilal was once the poetry editor of the newspaper Al-Hayat, and her favorite English-language writers are Hemingway and Dickens. If she prevails in The Million's Poet, she'll win $1.3 million.

We're totally pulling for her.

Million's Poet Finalist Defies Death Threats [The National]
Saudi Female Poet Whose Verse Inflames And Inspires [BBC]