Lego is planning to pull its Jabba The Hutt-themed set off the shelves this year, but it wants you to know that recent accusations of racism are not the reason why.
Birol Kilic, head of the Turkish Cultural Association of Austria responsible for the accusations, doesn't appear to agree. He told NBC News that after his group met with the toymaker last week, the company promised to pull the product from shelves by the end of this year. Kilic’s organization argued earlier this year that the set resembled the a former mosque in Istanbul, the Jami al-Kabir mosque in Beirut and a minaret.
Because Jabba The Hutt is a villain in the Star Wars films, the group claimed the alleged close resemblance reinforced negative stereotypes about Muslims.
“This does not belong in children’s bedrooms,” Kilic told NBC. “And the minaret-like tower features machine guns. Children will become insensitive to violence and other cultures.”
"A few media have reported that the product is being discontinued due to the mentioned criticism. This is, however, not correct," the statement reads. "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."
Lego earlier released a separate statement saying that the components of the toy were all intended to resemble characters and sets from the fictional Star Wars movies.
“The LEGO Group regrets that the product has caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to interpret it wrongly, but point out that the design of the product only refers to the fictional content of the Star Wars saga,” the January statement reads.
The “Jabba’s Palace” controversy isn’t the first time Lego has been accused of racism. In 2010, artist Chris McVeigh noticed that almost all of the non-white lego men and women scowl, prompting Wired to explore the issue. The publication found that Hollywood could be in part to blame; Lego sets that are based on famous movies reinforce the racism already apparent in movie industry casting, according to the Wired article.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to include comments from Lego.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly implied that Chris McVeigh accused Lego of racism. McVeigh observed that many of the non-white Lego faces scowl, prompting Wired to observe that that could be a function of racism already apparent in Hollywood casting.
Check out the "Jabba's Palace" set below:
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