Lego Accused of Racism with Star Wars Jabba’s Palace Set

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria states that a Lego Star Wars’ set of Jabba’s Palace is racist because it appears to closely resemble the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Jami al-Kabir mosque in Beirut and a minaret and therefore reinforces negative stereotypes about the Middle East.

Turkish leaders are offended by a Lego Star Wars set, claiming it resembles a famous mosque. Photo: Lego

Turkish leaders are offended by a Lego Star Wars set, claiming it resembles a famous mosque. Photo: Lego

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria released a statement calling for Lego to apologise for affronting religious and cultural feelings.

Austria’s Turkish community said “Jabba’s Palace”, a model of the home of Jabba the Hutt, was based on Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul and that the accompanying figures depicted Asians and Orientals as people with “deceitful and criminal personalities.”

TCCA apparently believes the toy set resembles the Hagia Sophia, originally a structure in Istanbul that began life as an Orthodox basilica in 360, became a mosque in 1453 and was eventually converted to a museum in 1935; TCCA further alleges it resembles the 7th century Jami’ al-Kabir mosque in Beirut.

“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed,” a statement on their website reads, according to the Telegraph. The statement also claims that the characters look sinister and do evil things, such as keep slaves and commit murder.

“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.”

The crimes associated with the figures, the statements adds, include terrorism, slavery, murder and human sacrifice.

Taking into account that many of the Lego figures carry weapons, the Turkish organisation also urged parents “not to buy toys of war or toys of discrimination” as the model goes against the “peaceful coexistence of different cultures in Europe”.

Lego denies the charges. “The Lego Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace does not reflect any actually existing buildings, people, or the mentioned mosque,” Katharina Sasse, a spokesperson for Lego, told the Telegraph.

“We regret that the product has caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to come to a wrong interpretation, but point out that when designing the product only the fictional content of the Star Wars saga were referred to.”

This is not Lego’s first brush with racism accusations either. The artist Chris McVeigh claimed in 2010 that almost all non-white Lego faces scowl, according to Wired. The Wired article claims that Lego’s toy sets based on Hollywood movies also highlight the racism already apparent in Hollywood casting, reminds Huffington Post.

Star Wars has been accused of racism before. Some claimed that George Lucas’ 1999 movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was racist because some of its villains seemed to reinforce Asian stereotypes.

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