Written by on January 28, 2013 in Jedi Council, Lego, News - 5 Comments

A Turkish cultural center in Austria has stirred up an international tiff over a “Star Wars” Lego toy: specifically, a model of Jabba the Hutt’s domed palace that the Turks say looks too much like Istanbul’s sacred Hagia Sophia monument.

“The missiles, guns and weapons … in the Lego castle are questionable for the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria, even ‘educational explosives,’” the center said on its German-language website. The center said a complaint was lodged with Lego, and it reserved the right to file hate-crime complaints with German and Austrian authorities as well.

In response, Lego said that “Jabba’s Palace” wasn’t modeled after any mosque or other holy place, but after, um, Jabba’s palace.

“The model in question is not based on any real building, rather depicts a fictional scene of Jabba’s Palace on the planet Tatooine from ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,’” Michael McNally, brand relations director for Lego Systems, said in an email. “As is the case in all Lego sets related to the Star Wars property, Lego designers reproduce all structures, vehicles and characters based on the way they appear in the films. The company regrets that the group has misinterpreted what the Lego Star Wars set depicts.”

McNally told NBC News that “the set has not been withdrawn from stores.”

Jabba the Terrorist?
The cultural center in Vienna said the issue arose when a father lodged a complaint about the construction set, which his son received as a Christmas gift. The dad took the toy back to the store, and the center said it contacted Lego about what it saw as “educationally and culturally objectionable defects.”

“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke hookah and kills his victims,” the center said. “It is clear that the figure of the ugly villain Jabba and the whole scene serves up racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against Orientals and Asians as sneaky and criminal personalities. …”

What does Jabba’s palace have to do with the Turks? In an annotated set of pictures, the center drew a parallel between the dome of Jabba’s house and the dome of the Hagia Sophia, a 1,500-year-old monument that has served as a church and a mosque but is now used as a cultural museum. The tower rising beside Jabba’s palace? To the Austrian Turks, that looks like a Muslim minaret.

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria put together a detailed comparison of the “Star Wars” play set and the Hagia Sophia monument.


The centuries-old Hagia Sofia is one of Turkey’s most famous monuments.


As you might expect, the controversy sparked a storm of Hothian proportions on the Internet. The idea that a Lego toy could offend Asians or Muslims seemed so out of the blue that some commentators suspected it was an elaborate spoof. “A very successful one, well done to the author, you’ve had half the world’s press swallowing it,”  Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wrote.

5,000 emails received
A spokesman for the cultural community, Ata Sel, told NBC News that this is not a spoof. He said the center has received about 5,000 emails so far about its stand. “We did get a lot of racist emails,” he said, “but a lot of emails say we are right.”

He hasn’t yet heard back from Lego officially, but he has seen the company’s response in news reports — and he doesn’t like it. “This answer we cannot accept,” he said. “Lego wants to make war respectable by producing games for children.”

Instead of helping children build a “Star Wars” world, “Lego should show how to construct a peaceful world,” Ata Sel said. “Lego is a big firm, with responsibilities.”

It’s not so unusual for folks to take umbrage at “Star Wars” and its characters: Over the years, the fictional universe has weathered claims of anti-Semitism and anti-Japanese sentiment as well as complaints about racial stereotyping by Jar Jar Binks. Do you think the latest protest by the Austrian Turks has a valid point, or is this controversy as silly as Jar Jar’s accent? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.


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  1. Umpire January 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm ·

    Oh my we are all victims now! One of the most innocuous toy companies in the world, Lego is now being seen as a company that is attacking the Turkish culture. I think people are going out of their way to become victims today. Demanding apologies and having products recalled from store shelves. It’s particularly nauseating especially when there was no intent to harm anyone or to insult any particular group.
    Recently met this Django unchained figures were removed from store shelves and from being sold on eBay because of peoples ideas that they were somehow insulting , or racially insensitive. I thought of them just as toys, at the worst collectibles for adults. I had no interest in those figures but if someone dead I think they should have the right to buy them if they’re available. I don’t think that manufacturers are out to insult the people they’re trying to sell items to.
    We used to value strength in this country but now it seems like we put a premium on being a victim. Once we can find someone who seemingly has insulted us we can stand on our soapbox and cry havoc until they wince in pain and give us their apology ; Only satisfied when we received our pound of flesh. Come on people let’s stop being weak, whiny little babies and start having a little thicker skin. Let’s save our higher for the real bad guys in the world, people who are doing real harm, killing others, robbing and stealing.
    So Lego toy looks kind of like a mosque,who cares, who is it really hurting?

  2. Sliding Lock Man in PA January 29, 2013 at 12:41 am ·

    Oh, for crying out loud! Umpire, you said it better than I could. This is just absolutely ridiculous. These people really need to save their energy for fights that matter. As for the Django figures, you’re right; pulling them is at least as ludicrous as protesting the Lego Jabba set. Django figures have to go, but the figures for, say, “Grindhouse” from a few years ago — including the Rose McGowan “Cherry” figure with an assault rifle for a leg — didn’t make a blip on anybody’s radar? We really have become a bunch of whiners.

  3. Umpire January 29, 2013 at 12:56 am ·

    For the record I do not cover Nazi figures and I know there’s a few companies that make them. I don’t think that they should be stopped from making them, but we won’t be covered on the site just because I think they’re in bad taste and I think they’re offensive to me personally. In the same vein I would not cover a Charlie Manson figure either, but someone say like Scarface who is based on a fictional character I wouldn’t have as much problem with.
    My main thrust is that though I may find things personally offensive I don’t have to call for the withdrawal of an item or in apology from a company. I think I’m stronger than that I think we are all are. Basically if something is not popular and people don’t buy it, the company gets the message, in the pocketbook!

    Instead of finding something that we find offensive in an item why don’t we look at it first as what was intended to be, in this case just a toy instead of something that was harboring some cultural insult?

    Yes it’s time for Russ to collect children’s playthings to actually grow up.

  4. jedijoe56 January 29, 2013 at 10:55 am ·

    I don’t think too many 8 year olds are making the connection between Hagia Sophia and a Lego rendering of Jabba the Hutt’s Palace. I don’t know if I could find 8 adults that even know what Hagia Sophia is. It seems to be the nature of some people to nitpick and really go out of their way to establish some kind of link, weak or not, and then run with it. If only these people could channel this energy into something useful, like maybe education, work, charity or otherwise they could actually make a difference in the world. Instead, we’ll continue to hear about these ridiculous, eye-rolling stories.

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