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Last month, Britney’s memoir, The Woman in Me, came out. And, as expected, it’s gotten a lot of attention. This made me think this is the perfect time to post a blog post I wrote last year.

Now, you may be thinking, why would Britney Spears make it to a blog about self-care for Muslim Activists? I will add to that confusion and say I also want to discuss how it relates to Adnan Syed.

Yes, you read that right. I want to talk about how Britney Spears’ and Adnan Syed’s cases and how they are connected.

Let me tell you why.

If you aren’t familiar with their stories, here is some context:

Britney was put under a long-term conservatorship that was clearly not supposed to be long-term. This lasted 13 years, and many people noticed something was wrong and started asking questions about it. You can learn about her case and what conservatorship is by watching The New York Times Presents Framing Britney Spears on the TV streaming service Hulu. I highly recommend watching it. It sheds an alarming light on conservatorships and how difficult it can be to get out of one. It scares me to think that someone like Britney, who has all these resources, couldn’t escape it. What’s happening to all of those people wrongfully under one without resources?

Adnan Syed was sentenced to prison for life for allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend in high school. In sum, there were a lot of holes in his case. Again, questions were starting to get asked. You can learn about his case by listening to season 1 of the Serial podcast that you can find on most podcast streaming services.

This is where their cases overlap. In both cases, a person or group worked to bring attention to their situations. In Britney’s case, the fans pushed for her situation to be addressed, which clearly led to the creation of the documentary mentioned above. That documentary changed Britney’s ability to figure out how to get out of the conservatorship. In Adnan’s case, his family friend, Rabia Chaudhry, would not let his case go until justice was brought. Additionally, not only did their advocacy give their specific cases attention, but it also educated many more people on disability justice issues (Britney’s case) and the corrupt judicial system we have in the United States (Adnan’s case). Both shed light on how the laws put in place meant to protect us end up hurting innocent people in many detrimental and life-alternating ways.

I know both are controversial. I remember sitting in friend circles in 2014, having long debates about why we thought Adnan was guilty or not (that was then; this is now. It is so clear that there is another suspect, and he is not guilty). In Britney’s case, people scrutinize her in so many ways that she doesn’t have the best reputation. Plus, her songs and performance do not align with Islamic values, so many may not want to pay attention to her case. In my eyes, both are still human and deserve justice.

For me, both cases have stuck with me. Not only because both were set free in the same year but also because it reminds me of the reality that so many of our Mactivists are in.

We all have issues that we deeply care about and tirelessly fight for. We do anything we can to get our voices heard on behalf of the marginalized whose voices cannot be heard. We educate our community as much as possible about the issue in hopes of making a change. We dream about our causes getting the attention and positive results that both got.

But, we aren’t so lucky to get that ‘viral’ attention. We have so many in our community who are active advocates and exhausted, dealing with burnout, compassion fatigue, being pushed and pulled between small wins, and cycles of hope and hopelessness. The list can go on.

This gets to the point of what I wanted to say. I want us to take some things away from these cases. Here they are:

  • Some of us don’t get to see a lot of wins in the causes we are fighting for, and these are wins to remember, amongst many others. We should always celebrate the wins for all social justice issues.
  • Their cases are a reminder to hang in there and keep fighting. For Britney, it took 13 years; for Adnan, it took 23 years. Those are long battles; some of you are fighting even longer ones. We may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it doesn’t mean it won’t come. We may not have the numbers fighting alongside us, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make a difference. You have the power to make a change (of course, with Allah’s help).
  • If you are at a point where you are in a cycle of hopelessness, it may be time for you to take a break or reset in some way. Take time to re-energize and rejuvenate to allow you to keep going. Just don’t give up.
  • More importantly, remember you are not alone in your fight. So many people are fighting for justice for someone or a whole group of people in some shape or form. There always will be, just like you will always be fighting the good fight. Hang in there!

I leave you with the reflection question: What do you need in this moment to keep fighting that good fight?

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