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.
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.