3D-printed statues kick off a storm in Kuwait

Some people said they were puzzled at the campaign against the figurines and how they were described as idols.
Sunday 23/09/2018
A figurine with 3D-printing technology. (Al Arab)
Out of hand. A figurine with 3D-printing technology. (Al Arab)

KUWAIT CITY- The recent appearance of 3D-printed models of human figures on the market in Kuwait has stirred a huge controversy among jurists, preachers, scholars, politicians and activists.

Reports on social media said a shop in Kuwait was manufacturing human statues and figurines. The shop, the reports claimed, was using advanced technology to print 3D models of anyone who wanted to pay for them to be kept as keepsakes.

Critics considered the figurines to be idols and said their manufacture should be banned. Activists labelled such criticism as attempts to suppress freedom and creativity.

The management of the company making the models withdrew the 3D-printed human models from its stores, despite the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry saying the company had not broken any laws.

Al-Jarida newspaper quoted Mohammed al-Youssoufi, a board member of the 3D-printing company, as saying it withdrew the models out of concern for its employees’ safety.

Youssoufi denied rumours that state authorities forced the company to withdraw the figures. He said the company formally asked its parent company to bring in new non-human figures made using the same technology.

He said a meeting with the Ministry of Commerce took place after a complaint against the company and that the issue stems from a desire to engage in “political bargaining.”

Youssoufi explained that 3D-printing technology has been on the market for nearly three years but Doob technology is more precise and has unique size options. It is used in medicine and architecture, as well as for entertainment and souvenirs.

Some people said they were puzzled at the campaign against the figurines and how they were described as idols. Under the hashtag “Idols_in_Kuwait,” activist Lolwa al-Hussinan tweeted: “A shop in Kuwait prints for you and your family figurines as souvenirs… and the sheikhs of religion say the statues lead to shirk [idolatry] and that people later will start worshipping them.”

“Certainly, we must have gone beyond every stage of ignorance,” Hussinan wrote. “I don’t have words to describe the stage we’re in now.”

Using the same hashtag, Arwa al-Waqyan tweeted: “The machine prints a model of your body, not of Al-Lat or al-‘Uzza. Please spare us these futile good-for-nothing fatwas.”

Bashar al-Sayegh, secretary-general of the liberal National Democratic Alliance, said: “Conjuring up and exploiting fatwas to confiscate public and private freedoms and to pursue political and electoral gain is unfortunate.”

Sayegh described what happened as “religious terrorism in which excommunication and threats were used as weapons” and warned of “the seriousness of issuing such arbitrary fatwas and interpreting them according to political events.”

The head of the political bureau of the liberal Kuwait Democratic Forum, Ali al-Aoudhi, criticised the description of the models as “idols.” He stated that “what is happening is nothing but contempt for people’s minds and a new attempt to suppress freedoms and creativity under the pretext of religion.”

The controversy started after Islamist member of the Kuwaiti parliament Mohammed Hayef al-Mutairi unleashed a wave of condemnation about the 3D models through his Twitter account. “The manufacturing of these statues and figurines must be forbidden, as they have invaded the Arabian Peninsula. Complacency has reached a point where temples have been established in some Gulf states,” he tweeted.

“In Kuwait, there is a shop exhibiting and selling figurine copies of human beings. These are vile happenings in the land of monotheism, in which idols were destroyed and forbidden. Their return is a sign of the coming of the apocalypse and the minister of commerce must ban them.”

Salafist preacher Othman al-Khamis was asked on his Twitter account about the figurines and replied: “What this shop is doing is evil and it must be closed immediately — if it actually exists.”

Khamis later described the issue as “more dangerous than liquor stores because it revives the issue of idols, which may prompt some people to make idols for their children. Therefore, the shop must be closed.”

Former Kuwaiti Minister of Justice and Endowments Nayef al-Ajmi, also posting on Twitter, said: “Making statues using modern technology is haram according to sharia. It should only be used within the limits of sharia, such as making educational models for medical schools or children’s games.”

Ajami said also that “the figurines should not be described as idols, because statues are classified as idols only if they are worshipped.”

“As for the image, it is said to be a statue and it is not said to be an idol. Needless to say that statues are an excuse for the greater shirk [idolatry] and this is the most prominent reason for their prohibition,” Ajami added.

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