But an American entrepreneur is making a line of toys that includes "Bandit — Mr. White" - a toy that's giving a British Muslim group conniptions.
"The toy mini-figures, made by American Will Chapman, includes a masked terrorist bandit with an assault rifle, grenade launcher and belt of explosives...."
(Sky News (December 4, 2008))
A British Muslim organization, Ramadhan Foundation, is shocked. The toys are "absolutely disgusting". They glorify terrorism.
Chief executive Mohammed Shafiq said the figures were "glorifying terrorism".
He also said: "I don't think there's any difference between someone that shouts hatred through a megaphone and someone that creates a doll that glorifies terrorists.
(From the BrickArms online shop via Sky News, used without permission)
That's the Ramadhan Foundation's take on this toy.
Me? I understand why LEGO hasn't made something like this. Even their pirates are cute. Which brings up a point: why hasn't a Somali group expressed outrage at LEGO's pirate toys? It wouldn't make sense, but I'll bet that someone, somewhere, thinks that LEGO's Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is a deliberate insult to Somalis, as well as Jamaicans and the Dutch.
Back to "Bandit — Mr. White".
I think Mr. Shafiq should decide whether the toys glorify terrorism, or shout hatred: presumably against Muslim terrorists. Although the two concepts aren't completely incompatible, they're not all that similar.
Shouting Hatred With a Toy Bandit? Get a Grip!Being upset over toys isn't anything new. At least as far back as the sixties, a few very earnest people in America have been horrified at toy guns and tanks. The ones who have children won't let their kids play with such things.
That's okay. Playing with GI Joe isn't all that critical to mental and emotional development. On the other hand, hoplophobia may be a serious issue.
I'd have to see how the manufacturer markets "Bandit — Mr. White" before saying whether the Ramadhan Foundation's strident response is even close to being justified.
I'll agree that the toy is a bit over the top. I think Barbie is, too. But
"glorifying terrorism" and spreading hate? That's debatable.
Pop psychology in Sunday supplements and some of what I picked up in college says that children use toys to deal with what they're learning about the world. Playing with toys lets them put ideas into concrete form and literally move them around.
Like it or not, terrorism and terrorists are part of today's world. And the terrorists don't, generally, look like Scandinavian Lutherans.
I remember toys that represented soldiers. They weren't planting trees or cleaning up oil spills. Many represented soldiers who had fought in WWII.
(from OLIVER PLASTIC 60MM TOY SOLDIERS, used without permission)
Maybe toys made in the forties and fifties were glorifying German and Japanese imperialism: but I doubt it.
(I know: Those toy WWII Japanese soldiers are contemporary re-issues. But I remember things like this, back in the fifties.)
Following the Ramadhan Foundation's logic, those toys were glorifying the imperialistic ambitions of Germany and Japan. Or, in Berkeley's America, American imperialism.
I don't think so.
Crying Wolf, Over-Sensitivity, and Unintended ConsequencesI think there's a risk, however slight, that the Ramadhan Foundation and other hypersensitive Muslim groups are teaching people that Muslims really are terrorists.
"Bandit - Mr. White" has a head cloth that's similar to some worn in the Middle East. But there's nothing particularly Islamic about the gun, grenades, or rocket launcher he's carrying. At least, not as far as I know.
If "Bandit - Mr. White" had been dressed as an imam, with a Quran in one hand and a machine gun in the other: that's something any Muslim group could legitimately complain about.
As it is, I think the Ramadhan Foundation is, unintentionally, reinforcing the stereotype that anyone carrying a weapon, and having a cloth on his head, is a Muslim and a terrorist. And, by extension, that Muslims are terrorists.
Reality Check, PleaseListening to defenders like the Ramadhan Foundation, you might not realize that:
- Not everyone living in the Middle East are
- Not all Muslims
- Are terrorists
- Live in the Middle East
- Not all terrorists are Muslims
The catch-phrase in my culture is: choose your battles.
- "Lego's 'Bandit - Mr. White' is Osama Bin Laden! (Not)"
(December 5, 2008)
- " 'Bandit - Mr. White' - Culture, Religion, and Headgear"
(December 5, 2008)
- "Lego-style Islamic terrorist figurine causing an uproar"
WINK|NEWS.com (December 4, 2008)
- "Disgust At 'Lego' Terrorist Toys "
Sky News (December 4, 2008)