EDITORIAL: When a toy is just a toy

Why the West should stand up to Lego charges

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The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria is going after a toymaker. In the same week that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists took hostages and killed many foreign workers at a natural-gas plant in Algeria, a member of the organization lodged a “hate speech” complaint against the Danish toy manufacturer Lego. According to the group’s website, the product’s depiction of “the terrorist Jabba the Hutt” is offensive because he “smokes a hookah and commits murder.” Jabba the Hutt is not a living being, but a morbidly obese, multi-creased and layered wormy-looking villain in the “Star Wars” series. He’s a cartoon terrorist.

The Lego rendition of Jabba’s Palace is racist because it looks like the Hagia Sophia, the 4th-century church that served as a mosque for five centuries after the Muslims seized Constantinople. (It is now a museum.) The Lego company says that the palace in its $150 play set was modeled after the Hollywood depiction of Jabba’s abode, where this so-called terrorist is also known as “the bloated one.” The complaint likens the toy’s depiction of a guard in a tower as if it were showing a prayer leader in a minaret armed with an ax and rifle.

Apart from the fictional windbag and his toy palace, the episode underscores the silliness manufactured by extremist Muslims who lack perspective, if not a sense of humor.

In the coming months, much attention will be paid to the growing terrorist threat from North Africa — Mali in particular — as French and other Western forces go after authentic terrorists now poised to take over wobbly, failed states. As we learned from the Danish cartoon controversy in 2005, the Lego dust-up could well invite attack from al Qaeda’s supporters in Western Europe, who scout for the most trivial trigger to justify a renewed wave of attacks against the West.

Director J.J. Abrams recently agreed to direct the next episode in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, which means an onslaught of plastic toy replicas, including those manufactured by Lego, won’t be far behind. These are just playthings that shouldn’t be turned into pawns in a cynical political game. The West must stand up to such silliness and not give in to the temptation to redesign products in a fit of craven political correctness.

The Turkish government, which prides itself as a model for how Islamists and secularists can cooperate in society, should help its countrymen in Austria get a grip.

Jabba the Hutt is no terrorist. He just needs to stay away from carbs.

The Washington Times

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