Turkish Muslim Group Finds Latest Foe in Jabba the Hutt Lego Set

This time they’ve gone too far.

A much-loved and large part of my childhood is under attack from crazy theocrats. “They” are Austria’s Turkish Cultural Association. (I know, I know, the very name strikes terror into the hearts of decent folk across the land.)

And the fond childhood memories of which I speak? Lego. I love Lego. I always have and always will. Despite being the grand old age of 27, I still own a few sets and always enjoy seeing younger members of my family play with them, as it provides a welcome opportunity to build something new. I have a certificate I once got for entering a Lego building competition — not winning anything mind you; merely entering. Yet it still hangs proudly on my wall. Okay, so we get it — I love Lego and my bias has been declared.

How has the world of this beloved toymaker collided with Turkish cultural sensibilities?

Because it’s racist, that’s why.

Outrage stirred in sleepy Austria when a Muslim father found that his sister had given a Lego set to his son as a present. Specifically, Jabba’s Palace from the Lego Star Wars range.

Avert your eyes! It’s Lego Jabba’s Palace

At first I thought this story had to be a hoax, since I first read it on April Fool’s Day — but, unfortunately, it seems to be true. The exact nature of the complaint seems to that Jabba’s Palace looks like a mosque… and Jabba is a villain and surrounded by villains. Therefore, anyone who is in a mosque is a villain and Lego is racist.

You can’t refute logic as sound as that!

A statement from the group published in the Austrian Times outlined their anger:

The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed. It is clear that the ugly figure of Jabba and the whole scene smacks of racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against Asians and Orientals as people with deceitful and criminal personalities. He also smokes an oriental water pipe, and keeps a princess as a belly dancer in chains. That is the sort of thing that does not belong in a child’s bedroom.

The group is also concerned that the toy set resembles Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, a church-turned-mosque-turned-museum, thus further enforcing the obvious (to them at least) fact that Jabba’s palace is meant to be a mosque. I’ve been to the Hagia Sophia — it looks nothing like Jabba’s Palace. If anything, it bears a closer resemblance to something from Naboo. Why this group has seen fit to go after Lego, as opposed to, say, George Lucas, is unclear. They’re probably just unfamiliar with Star Wars. Which in itself is cause for concern.

Lego rightly insisted the product was merely a faithful reproduction: “We see no reason to take it off the market, we have simply followed the film.” But then came news that Lego was indeed going to pull the product, along with a statement apologizing for any offense caused, a move seen far too regularly here in Europe. Victory for Austria’s Turkish community!

It was short-lived, however. Lego’s original statement was misleading, incorrectly attributing the decision to pull the product to the rantings of a few theocrats. It turns out the product was due to be discontinued at the end of the year, anyway. Lego released a follow-up statement clarifying this position:

All Lego Star Wars products are based on the movies of the Star Wars saga. The ‘Jabba’s Palace’ product does not reflect any non-fictional buildings, people, or the mentioned mosque. The Lego Group regrets that the product has caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to interpret it wrongly but the product only refers to the fictional content of the Star Wars saga.  It is not correct that the discontinuation of the product is related in any way to the TCA’s criticism. The Lego Star Wars assortment usually have a life-cycle of one to three years after which they leave the assortment, possibly to be renewed after some years. ‘Jabba’s Palace’ was planned from the beginning to be in the assortment only until the end of 2013 as new exciting models from the Star Wars universe will follow.

For now, the force is with Lego. And may it stay that way for good.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.

@markdturner

  • Baby_Raptor

    …/head-desk

    I’m no huge fan of Star Wars; I haven’t even seen them. But this still strikes me as someone looking for something to complain about.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

      I can see the headline now: Atheists complaining that we’re rebelling anything that is potentially even slightly at all maybe sorta kinda blasphemous or offensive to someone somewhere at some point.

  • Achron Timeless

    See, this is the tinfoil hat version of the Streisand Effect. I’ve never associated Jabba with islam, but now I do.

    I also find it bloody hilarious. Thanks Austrian Turkish Community!

  • Timmah

    This is the second time there have been a round of complaints about this. It’s funny as hell that these people are complaining about something based off a 30 year old movie.

  • Nate Frein

    If anything, I’d say that George Lucas recognized the value of adopting architecture from a desert people for a desert planet. Because you’d figure that desert people know how to build good desert houses.

    But that attributes more sense to George Lucas than I think actually applies to George Lucas.

  • glenmorangie10

    Having suffered through the three prequels, I can say with some confidence that when George Lucas wants to be racist, he is not this subtle about it.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      exactly.

  • Michael

    Tattooine is pretty much the middle east, but in space. And as we know only bad people came from Tattooine, right?

  • flyb

    It is clear that the ugly figure of Jabba and the whole scene smacks of racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations…

    I’m shocked. SHOCKED. I mean, who uses the word “smacks” that way anymore?

    • Jon Peterson

      Hey now! I totally do that thing!

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Any dome-on-drum style of building or toy is going to look like the mosque that the Ottomans confiscated from the Orthodox Christians.

    • corps_suk

      To me, thats the funniest part…it was built as a cathedral. So I guess they are just looking out for their christian brothers?

      • Layla

        Many Christians I know from Turkey complained also, they REALLY don’t like it!

    • Layla

      But, mosques are are the ones originally dome shaped. Churches and Synagogues are not. Islamic architecture has gotten its roots from Greater-Syria Empire and then led through out the Mediterranean who were christian at the time a.k.a. Byzantine . Many comic books and movies always have subtle/subliminal messages and the villain is usually made out ot be Arab/Mediternean or Russian. I mean even Back to the Future the guys who kill the scientist in the first movie are Palestinian terrorists, nice one Spielberg Bring you anti-Arab views in a kids movie. What does that have to do with science fiction? I understand, there concerns because a lot of the time its to vilify Muslims or Arabs in a way instead of honoring or paying homage to it. They aren’t so far fetched. It kind of looks like a mosque!

  • A3Kr0n

    How about a 3d printable Muslim terrorist mosque? Try and take that off the “market”.

  • Amandatheatheist

    Favorite two lines from the article that Mark linked to:

    “‘He also smokes an oriental water pipe, and keeps a princess as a belly dancer in chains. That is the sort of thing that does not belong in a child’s bedroom.’”

    and

    “The row first erupted in January, after a Muslim dad complained when a relative bought one of the toys for his son as a Christmas present.”

    1. Then don’t give it to your child. “Not appropriate for young children” is not the same as the other complaints. It’s silly to lump it in.
    2. Christmas?

    • Raising_Rlyeh

      Well, most muslims consider jesus to be a prophet and it could be a day to honor him, but it is still very weird since the prohibition against images of muhammad is to prevent people from worshiping muhammad.

      It is weird a little to hear muslims celebrating christmas.

  • David

    I think that the problem might not be that the toy looks like a mosque on the outside but the deployment of the weapons on the inside is giving away tactical secrets.

  • http://twitter.com/Regcarolmoore Regina Carol Moore

    I read about this a few days ago, and I agree with everything you’ve said. I do not see a mosque in that design. As with Rorschach tests, people who are looking for a reason to be outraged will find a reason to be outraged everywhere. I’m very relieved that Lego did not give in to this ridiculous attempt at bullying.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I’m I the only one who wants to yell, “It’s a trap,” every time some one says the phrase “Allahu Akbar”.

    • coyotenose

      I didn’t before, but oh god do I ever want to now. I think I’ve already yelled that three or four times this week, and I’m not even a Warrie. Ackbar is just that awesome.

    • kevin white

      No, you aren’t.

  • Bdole

    It’s not like Lego produces a fez-capped deathstar complete with laser beam directed at a planet called Armeniadaraan or something.

  • C Peterson

    I think there is a tiny element of truth in all this. We do have a weak cultural image of a certain Middle Eastern stereotype representing bad guys- often of the shifty variety. Casablanca, Indiana Jones, Star Wars… this kind of villain isn’t uncommon. I don’t think its origins are particularly racial, but more likely related to the role played by Turkey (and possibly other countries) during WW1 and after, and by the cultural and architectural exoticness of the region to Western eyes- especially American youth enamored by comic books and action tales.

    Of course, it’s crazy to blame Lego, as opposed to blaming Lucas, and personally, I’d say “blame” is much too strong a word. Life and literature would be awfully dull if every cultural meme like this needed to be purged due to an overdeveloped sense of political correctness.

    • Bdole

      Yeah, native Austrians have a much clearer connection. Darth Vader’s army was composed of “Storm Troopers.” Not exactly subtle. The uniforms, too, are very reminiscent of the Germans. The officers, I mean, not the guys in white.

      • C Peterson

        This sort of thing is everywhere. Cultural stereotypes are utilized for their symbolic power, both negative and positive. It’s fascinating the way that Peter Jackson did this with the LotR movies, carefully integrating elements of real cultures into the imaginary cultures of Elfs, Dwarfs, Orcs, and all the rest. (Tolkien did the same, although it isn’t as obvious without the visuals.) This works because we are tuned in to those stereotypes. Good authors make extensive use of them. Always have, and always will. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Mark W.

    Now those poor innocent Hutts will forever be put on a No Fly List by the FBI. Thanks a lot, Austrian Turkish Cultural Association! Jerks.

  • fsm

    I just feel that when people get all bent out of shape about these completely imagined slights at their religion, it diminishes their religion a little more to people that are able to think.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    “The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed.”
    They clearly have not seen starwars. Jabba is not a terrorist. He is a member of the starwars version of the mob.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Hilarious… This stuff writes itself.

  • Carpinions

    Isn’t referring to people of colloquially “Asian” descent as “Orientals” considered lightly racist – or at least culturally insensitive – these days?

    • Michael

      I’d say the insensitivity comes from his referring to “asians and orientals” – seeming to suggest that East Asians aren’t “proper” Asians and that the term should only apply to South Asians.

    • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

      In the US yes. But this is in Austria, so no. Apparently it refers to middle-east/India. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oriental#German

  • Y

    Since the Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church shouldn’t it be the christian theocrats whining about how star wars is anti christian since they made jabba’s palace look like a church thus insinuating that anyone in a church is a criminal that hold princesses chained and Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

  • Ibis3

    I know, I know, the very name strikes terror into the hearts of decent folk across the land.

    Really? Is this ethnic joke front and centre on a post objecting to people finding something racist supposed to be funny?

  • Michael Pipkin

    Nitpicking here, but LEGO should always be in all caps. That’s how the manufacturer spells it.

  • Stonyground

    The information that this toy was judged by these people without them having any idea that it was based on an old movie, made me think of an old newspaper story about a vicar who was convinced that the Queen album ‘A Kind of Magic’ was about devil worship and was going to lead our teenagers to their doom. He seemed to be unaware that the album was actually based on the script of the fantasy movie ‘Highlander’ and of the fact that, by this time, Queen’s fan base were mostly in their late thirties.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gmillar Gavin Millar

      For what it’s worth, there will always be teens listening to bands like Queen.

  • Sam B

    I find the most amazing thing about this story is that I don’t have this set, yet. Need to go to the mall, I think.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Don’t leave it too late, it’s already been discontinued in Austria. You going to play with it or keep it in its box?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    I kind of agree with the Turkish Cultural Association’s criticisms, but they’ve sort of missed the boat! The Star Wars trilogy was in the 70s/80s, and no sequels worth noting have been made since.

  • Keulan

    Those muslims have obviously not watched Star Wars, or they’d know that Jabba’s Palace looks nothing like a mosque (and certainly not Hagia Sophia), and that Jabba is a gangster, not a terrorist. Also, they’re clearly not aware of the fact that Hagia Sophia was originally a Christian cathedral before it was used as a mosque.

  • Edmond

    If they don’t like that it looks like a mosque, couldn’t they just, you know, take it apart and make it look like something else? It is Legos, after all. That’s what you’re supposed to do with them.

  • Detective Wong

    Turkish Cultural Group are simply cry-boys with nothing else to care about while lacking tolerance and patience. End of story.

  • Jon Peterson

    I always thought Jabba’s Palace looked like what the Space Needle would have been if it had been conceived in Waterworld. Or the desert of the Mad Max movies.

    But y’know, overt racism from one of the world’s most family-friendly brands (LEGO) sounds far more likely.

  • praxiteles

    i live in wien and i know the turks are only upset as it might make their children actually build something instead of growing up to sell vegetables,kebab or breed.


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