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This Muslim Superhero May Battle A Real-World Threat: Islamophobia

"DC's Legends of Tomorrow" will introduce Muslim character Zari Adrianna Tomaz when it returns in the fall.
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This Muslim Superhero May Battle A Real-World Threat: Islamophobia

In response to the apparent anti-Muslim sentiment during the 2016 presidential election, The CW show "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" will introduce a Muslim superhero.

Iranian-American actress Tala Ashe will play a Muslim computer hacker from the future named Zari Adrianna Tomaz.

Ashe said in regard to the show: "Representation is a really powerful thing. ... What I think is so lovely about this show is that the Legends are this tapestry that represent America today."

The executive producer says the character was inspired by the difficulties of some living in the "current political climate." According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, total anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 44 percent from 2015-2016. And the organization claims those crimes could be especially high this year.

Experts say better representation in the media could help.

Studies have shown TV and film can affect how people see the real world. This is especially true when viewers aren't familiar with the topic or subject they're watching. In this case, the topic is Islam and the subjects are Muslim people, and past portrayals of them haven't been as positive as they could be.

Writer and religious studies expert Reza Aslan argues positive and humanizing representation in the media can "break through the walls" that cause racial, ethnic and religious biases.

Films like "The Big Sick" and shows like "Master of None" show the industry is embracing more positive Muslim-American characters. Last year, "Master of None" won a prime-time Emmy and a Peabody Award.

Actor and writer Aziz Ansari said in regard to his Peabody win: "I want to thank Netflix and Universal for believing in us and letting us tell our stories. I think they really seem to get what diversity really is. It's not, 'Hey, let's give this white protagonist a brown friend.' No, it's, 'Let's have a show where there's a token white guy.'"

And beyond "Master of None," this year's prime-time Emmy nominees are the most diverse they've ever been, and some say that's proof of more diverse programming.

"DC's Legends of Tomorrow" will add to that diversity when it returns this fall.