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Meet DC’s Newest Superhero: A Muslim Woman Computer Hacktivist

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It’s become a tired trope in media: Muslim men portrayed as barbaric terrorists, Muslim women as veiled symbols of the oppressed, devoid of agency. 

But in 2017, the tide is beginning to change, with varied portrayals of Muslims — men and women alike — becoming more common in film and television. 

The most recent Muslim character to make waves in the media environment will become a literal legend. 

Played by Iranian-American actress Tala Ashe, Zari Adrianna Tomaz is a Muslim computer hacktivist from the year 2042 in the superhero series “Legends of Tomorrow,” to be released in October, the Huffington Post reports.

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Ashe, who was born in Iran, but grew up in Powell, Ohio, spoke at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills last week about the importance of her upcoming role. 

“When I was growing up watching television, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” she said. “What I think is so lovely about this show is that the Legends are this tapestry that represent America today.” 

Ashe also acknowledged the social role she’s tasked with each time she takes on a new on-screen role, in an interview with Buzzfeed News

"A lot of my work as an artist has been about representing not only Muslim characters, but immigrant characters or third culture kids in an accurate, nuanced way," Ashe told BuzzFeed News. “Because of the climate of our world and what's going on, I think the depictions primarily in media and of course in the news have been overwhelmingly negative about Muslims and Muslim-Americans.” 

In the real world, discrimination against Muslims is on the rise. In the United States, anti-Muslim incidents nearly doubled between 2014 and 2016, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations

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Mosques have been attacked everywhere from Victoria, Texas to Stockholm, Sweden, and just this past weekend a mosque in Minnesota was bombed as Muslim worshippers gathered for morning prayers early Saturday morning. 

Portraying Muslim characters in a positive light in media could help combat the negative portrayals that lead to Islamophobia

“Not to get political, but something that we all gravitated toward in the writers room was making this character Muslim,” executive producer of “Legends of Tomorrow,” Marc Guggenheim said. “It’s not just politicians — a lot of the heroes of real life are letting us down.” 

Guggenheim, for his part, wanted to address not only anti-Muslim rhetoric, but also a lack of gender diversity in television. 

“There weren’t enough women quite frankly,” he said of “Legends of Tomorrow,” according to Variety. “It’s something we were looking to address.” 

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In “Legends of Tomorrow,” both Ashe and Guggenheim are imagining a tomorrow where the heroes we look up to look just a bit more like the people we see today. Hopefully, it’s a vision that will become mainstream far before 2042.