Turkish Community Accuses Lego of Racism for Modeling Jabba’s Palace After Hagia Sophia

Should the Lego model of Jabba’s Palace, home of the corpulent, toadish Star Wars villain, really belong in the Lego Architecture series? A Turkish community in Austria might argue that. According to a somewhat bizarre, made-for-Internet-news story from The Huffington Post, the Lego recreation of the site where the notorious space slug enslaved Princess Leia and trapped Han Solo has been seen by some as a racist gesture for appearing too similar to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia mosque. The controversy flared up around Christmas, when the Lego Star Wars sets filled toy store shelves, and Jabba’s domed palace caught the attention of the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

In a statement issued to Lego, the organization writes: “It is apparent that, for the figure of the repulsive bad guy Jabba and the whole scenery, racial prejudices and hidden suggestions against Orientals and Asians were used as deceitful and criminal personalities.” They also lambasted the toy for encouraging children in the 9-14 age set to fire missiles at a structure that resembles a mosque, particularly the Jami al-Kabir mosque in Beirut.

Lego has rejected these claims of subliminal racism, saying that the product “does not reflect any actually existing buildings, people, or the mentioned mosque … 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.”

Unfortunately, racism is not always intentional, nor is plagiarism. It’s hard to deny that the design of Lego-Jabba’s roof borrows a few pointers from the engineers behind the landmark Byzantine church. It seems that Zaha Hadid is not the only one bristled by the unauthorized copying of architectural ideas.

- Kelly Chan