Before we get into the meat of this story, let’s play a game of “Spot the Supposedly Racist and Discriminatory Undertones in This LEGO Star Wars Playset”:
No, really, take a good look at it. Notice anything wrong? No? Well, even if you didn’t, members of a Turkish community in Austria say they did: They claim the playset is an unflattering reference to Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s most revered mosques.
“Austria’s Turkish community said the model was based on Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul and that the accompanying figures depicted Asians and Orientals as people with ‘deceitful and criminal personalities,’” The Telegraph reports.
Here’s Hagia Sophia:
And here’s Jabba’s Palace (from “The Return of the Jedi”), the fictional location the LEGO playset is modeled after:
Outraged at the supposed connection, the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria has called on LEGO to apologize for “affronting religious and cultural feelings.”
And for those of you who don’t know who Jabba the Hutt is, he’s that big ‘ol slug thing from “The Return of the Jedi.” Yes, he is a “deceitful and criminal personality”:
“Jabba’s domed home and accompanying watchtower bare, according to the statement, an unwanted resemblance to Istanbul’s great Hagia Sophia, and another mosque in Beirut,” The Telegraph report notes.
But it’s not just the toy design that has the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria up in arms: They're none too pleased with the accompanying figurines.
“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed,” said a statement posted on the group’s website.
“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 Cultural Community’s website even features a side-by-side comparison of the LEGO toy and Hagia Sophia:
And because the LEGO figurines come with little, tiny toy weapons, the offended group has urged parents “not to buy toys of war or toys of discrimination” as the model playset supposedly stands in opposition to the “peaceful coexistence of different cultures in Europe."
The group has even said that it is considering legal action against LEGO for “inciting racial hatred and insulting human dignity,” The Telegraph report notes.
Of course, LEGO denies it tried to “incite racial hatred” and discriminate against human dignity with its Star Wars playset.
“The LEGO Star Wars product Jabba's Palace does not reflect any actually existing buildings, people, or the mentioned mosque,” said LEGO spokeswoman Katharina Sasse. “The LEGO mini-figures are all modeled on characters from the movie.”
“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.”
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Featured image HANDOUT.