Lego nixes ‘offensive’ mosque-like palace
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Lego nixes ‘offensive’ mosque-like palace

Toy company caves in to pressure from Turkish Muslims who say small-scale Jabba's Palace looks like Istanbul's Hagia Sophia

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Hagia Sophia basilica-turned-mosque, today a museum, contrasted with the Jabba's Palace Star Wars toy made by Lego. (left photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90, right photo credt: Lego)
The Hagia Sophia basilica-turned-mosque, today a museum, contrasted with the Jabba's Palace Star Wars toy made by Lego. (left photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90, right photo credt: Lego)

Lego has reportedly agreed to stop producing a Star Wars toy product Muslims find offensive because they say it resembles an Istanbul mosque.

According to reports in the British media, including the Daily Mail and the Independent, Lego agreed to withdraw the Jabba’s Palace product from production in 2014 — not immediately, but soon enough to appease the anger of those who think it depicts the Hagia Sophia basilica-turned-mosque, now a world-famous museum in Turkey.

Muslim groups also said the watchtower/spire of the toy palace — a lego version of Hutt Castle, a monastery-turned-palace belonging to crime lord Jabba the Hutt — resembled the minaret of a Beirut mosque.

The Turkish Community Forum, which issued the complaint, also said the lego version of Jabba himself — a ruthless, gluttonous gangster with a fat, slug-like appearance, who is almost always smoking a hookah — resembled a “terrorist” who “likes to smoke hookah and have his victims killed.”

The depiction of Jabba and his palace was seen as an affront not just to the Turkish Muslim community, but to all Asians: “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,” read the Forum’s statement.

Jabba the gluttonous gangster resembles a stereotypical 'Oriental,' according to some Turkish Muslims. (photo credit: Lego)
Jabba the gluttonous gangster resembles a stereotypical ‘Oriental,’ according to some Turkish Muslims. (photo credit: Lego)

The controversy over the toy originally erupted when a Turkish boy received the lego palace as a gift from a relative. His father noticed the resemblance to the famous former mosque and complained to the manufacturer. However, Lego initially dismissed the complaint and refused to nix the product.

“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,” the Daily Mail quoted Lego representative Katharina Sasse as saying.

However, as a result of additional pressure from Turkish community leaders, Lego agreed to remove the product from the production line starting from 2014.

From the date of its dedication by the Bishop of Antioch in 360, under the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constantine II,  until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) church served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral.

The building became a Muslim religious site after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. It served as a mosque from 29 May 1453 until the 1930s, when it was turned into a museum under Ataturk, the first president of the modern-day Turkish Republic.

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