LEGO: We’re Scrapping Star Wars Toy, But Not Because of Muslim Backlash

LEGO says it plans to retire its allegedly "racist" Jabba's Palace toy set, leading many to conclude the company is caving to backlash.

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In January we asked “Is this LEGO Star Wars toy racist?” in reference to LEGO’s blocky rendition of Jabba the Hutt’s desert palace, as depicted at the beginning of the film Return of the Jedi.

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The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria recently caused a stir by claiming the toy’s design was racially motivated, arguing that it was based on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Jami’ al-Kabir mosque in Beirut. Also: that the figures found in the set exemplify “racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against … Orientals and Asians as sneaky and criminal personalities (slaveholders, leaders of criminal organizations, terrorists, criminals, murderers, human sacrifice)…”

It seems the toy’s demise is now at hand: LEGO says it plans to retire Jabba’s Palace, leading some to conclude the company’s caving to backlash. Not so, says LEGO in an Apr. 2 statement:

A few media have reported that the product is being discontinued due to the mentioned criticism. This is, however, not correct … As a normal process products in the LEGO Star Wars assortment usually have a life-cycle of one to three years after which they leave the assortment and may be renewed after some years. The LEGO Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace 9516 was planned from the beginning to be in the assortment only until the end of 2013 as new exciting models from the Star Wars universe will follow.

Still, the TCCA seems to be greeting the move with celebratory rhetoric: “We are very grateful and congratulate Lego on the decision to take Jabba’s Palace out of production,” said TCCA president Birol Killic (via RT).

Despite LEGO’s denial that the toy’s removal is backlash-related, it devotes most of its statement to defending the toy as creatively anodyne, noting that it “regrets that the product has caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to interpret [the toy] wrongly, but … the design of the product only refers to the fictional content of the Star Wars saga.”

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