Well, drop everything you are doing, because Mustlims are offended again. This time it's not the flag of the nation they are getting welfare from, or the top of a dessert from Burger King, or a Christmas tree. This time, it's a LEGO Set.
Rather than the simple building blocks of your childhood, LEGO's today revolve around the major pop culture franchises, especially Star Wars. There are complete Star Wars LEGO characters, Star Wars LEGO sets, even Star Wars LEGO video games. Alas, the “Jabba's Palace” LEGO set looks like one of Islam's “most sacred sites,” a holy mosque that has a special place in the heart of all of the indomitable warriors of Muhammed. After the “Turkish Community Council” filed a complaint, the Huffington Post, various gossip blogs, and all the rest of the aggregation devices that tell SWPL”s what to think churned up the machinery. The Huffington Post even made sure to chronicle LEGO's long history of racist bigotry. “LEGO's” and “Edward Said” were duly plugged into the templates they keep handy for these kinds of eventualities and once again, the world's children were saved.
Some conservatives grumbled that the LEGO set is, after all, just a toy and not meant to resemble a mosque. Lost in all the idiocy was that the Turks weren't complaining about a real mosque at all, but the desecrated Hagia Sophia.
Once the centerpiece of Orthodoxy, and the heir to the glory that was Rome, perhaps the greatest cathedral in the world was lost to the West after the fall of Byzantium, one of the most tragic episodes in the history of what used to be our civilization. The ominous lunar eclipse during the siege, the desperate prayers of the doomed faithful inside the Church, and the final charge of Constantine XI and the legends surrounding his disappearance would echo in Western memory, if the West still existed. Indeed, most of the commentators involved in this controversy seem unaware that the Hagia Sophia was ever a church, and that it was built by Orthodox Christians. Obviously, since the dispute is over copying a supposed architectural style, it would be the Orthodox that LEGO owes an apology, not the Muslims.
The metapolitics of the contemporary West center more on ethnic masochism even than egalitarianism. It's not just that people are unaware of the Ottoman conquest of Byzantium – it's that conceiving of any episode in history where traditional Christians or Europeans are the victims is beyond possibility. Thus, we have a situation where a children's toy company is forced on the defensive because Muslims are upset a product vaguely resembles a Christian church that they conquered, desecrated, and transformed into a triumphalist monumentfestooned with the crescent of Islam.
Of course the entire debate is absurd. Of course it's just a toy and doesn't even really look like the church.
However, the correct response is not just to our eyes at “anti-defamation” groups begging for a handout. It's to remember that the story of Byzantium is our story too, even as Americans. The struggle is not just about fighting a rearguard action for the freedom to indulge in childish amusements and “free speech.” It's about working for the day when the Marble King awakens once again.