Toy giant Lego announced this week it is ending the production of its “Jabba the Hutt” play set following complaints that the model is anti-Muslim.
The Danish firm has agreed to withdraw the Star Wars toy set which features a mosque-like building inhabited by an obese, shisha-smoking alien complete with a belly-dancing figurine.
Lego denied the production cancellation of "Jabba the Hutt" is due to complaints made by a Turkish group in Austria.
“This sort of thing does not belong in a child’s bedroom,” said Melissa Gunes, a spokeswoman for Austria’s Turkish Cultural Association (TCA), in January.
Critics also claimed that the Lego palace bears an uncanny resemblance to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia mosque. The TCA went on to protest that the figures in the set were “deceitful and criminal” characters such as gun-runners, slave masters and terrorists.
The toy set “clearly shows racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against Asians and Orientals as sneaky and criminal personalities,” said the Turkish group.
“The game is pedagogical dynamite. It depicts Muslims as terrorists,” the TCA added. They appealed to Lego to remove the product from store shelves.
Although the firm initially dug in its heels and refused to withdraw the game, insisting the product was merely a faithful reproduction of Jabba, the slug-like villain who first appeared in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, they ultimately decided to end its production from 2014 onwards.
The decision followed a meeting in Munich between Turkish community leaders and Lego executives.
“We are very grateful and congratulate Lego on the decision to take Jabba’s Palace out of production,” said Birol Killic, the president of the TCA.
Lego, however, states that the decision to end the game’s production has nothing to do with complaints.
“We were in a dialogue to better understand each other’s points,” Lego spokeswoman Amanda Santoro wrote in a statement Monday. “But the product exit of Star Wars Jabba’s Palace is not a result of this dialogue but a planned portfolio change.”
“We regret the misinterpretation but we fully stand behind the product,” reiterated Roar Trangbaek, a Lego spokesman, on Monday.
Trangbaek also stated that it is the company’s policy to refrain from designing models that depict religious structures.
The toy company regrets that the mosque-like structure “caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to interpret it wrongly.”