In yet another case of the Clash of Civilizations, members of Austria’s Turkish community are angrier than a Twi’lek having a bad lekku day at the makers of Lego building blocks because they believe that the Lego “Jabba The Hutt’s Palace” playset might spark Islamophobia and cause children to associate Islam with terrorism and violence. The Turkish Cultural Community issued a statement earlier this week calling for an apology from Lego and requesting that the toy be discontinued; the group may also file criminal complaints against the Danish company in Austria and Germany for alleged “incitement to racial hatred.” The group apparently did not consider the possibility that children might come to think of Muslim community leaders as humorless nerf herders who don’t know a thing about movies.
The Lego model is a reproduction of a fortress belonging to Jabba the Hutt, a villain in the popular Star Trek series of movies, which we understand are about the adventures of a group of “Hobbits.” The statement alleges that the playset’s central building is a “one-to-one copy” of the Hagia Sofia mosque in Istanbul, a claim that will surely disappoint tourists who travel to
the Turkish capital (duh, not since 1923) Turkey’s largest city and are left wondering why the Hagia Sofia lacks turbolasers and a Rancor pit.
Further, the statement says that the “figure in the tower looks like a prayer leader but is really a criminal with an ax and rifle.” It may actually be just as well that the TCC spokesperson who drafted the statement is not particularly familiar with the Star Wars universe, since any nerd can tell at a glance that the figure the statement mistakes for a muezzin is actually one of Jabba’s Gamorrean guards, a detail that would only make an already raging cultural misunderstanding considerably worse.
A translation of the statement, originally in German, goes on to suggest that the toy will warp children’s minds with ugly stereotypes:
“It is clear that the figure of the ugly villain Jabba and the whole scene [depict] racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against the Orientals and Asians, [depicting them] as sneaky and criminal personalities.”
Hey, they have at least been reading them some Edward Said! It’s hardly the first time the Star Wars franchise has been accused of stereotyping or insensitivity; consider just the bantha-felching ordeal that is The Phantom Menace, with its stingy Jewish bug guy, its Charlie-Chan-voiced Trade Federation guys, its Steppin-Fetchit Rasta man-fish Jar Jar Binks, and its talentless Aryan homunculus Jake Lloyd, who people were supposed to think was “cute.”
As ridiculous as the claim that the playset is designed as an insult to muslims may be, Ralph McQuarrie’s concept design for the fortress does have a definite medieval Near East-ish feel, what with the domes and the towers and such, and McQuarrie frequently used architecture and images from around the world as starting points for his designs. But looking at the original design also makes it far clearer that the toy’s shape results more from scaling down an image from a matte painting (they still used those when Jedi was made!) than any attempt to replicate the Hagia Sofia:
We find nothing objectionable about the toy, but would also like to point out that if Lego ever produces a Star Wars Holiday Special playset, international indictment for crimes against humanity might be warranted. Then again, who wouldn’t want a Bea Arthur minifigure?