A shop in Kuwait that offered miniature 3D models of customers had to shut its doors on September 16, after their figurines attracted the ire of religious conservatives. They said that the shop encouraged people to make false idols, which is considered heresy.
It all began on September 13, when a Kuwaiti journalist (known on social media under the pseudonym of ‘itunesq8’) went to test out a new shop called Doob, which specialises in 3D technology. Doob had only just opened in a shopping centre in Kuwait City, and the journalist posted a video of himself trying out the service.
In the video, the journalist enthusiastically explains to his online viewers how the 3D printer works: first the customer goes into a sort of booth equipped with lots of cameras that take a photo of them from every angle. Then the photos are sent to a printer, which produces a little model made out of polymer resin – with astonishing detail. “We can even see the little designs on my T-shirt and the line on my trousers!” the journalist tells the camera, brandishing his own model.
The video soon caught the attention of religious conservatives.
"A sign that the end of the world is coming"
On his Twitter account, the conservative politician Mohammed Hayef AlـMutairi called for "the prohibition of these models which have invaded the Arabic peninsula".
"It’s serious that things like this have entered a monotheistic country, where the adoration of false idols has been abolished [with the arrival of Islam]. The return of these idols is a sign that the end of the world is coming. The Ministry of Commerce has to ban this,” he said.
The practice of idolatry is forbidden in Islam. Some branches of the religion also forbid figurative representations of people. In some sectors of the religion, this sin is considered ‘shirk’ – the act of associating a human being with Allah.
An influential religious leader, Othman al-Khamis, continued in the same vein on social media, saying that the 3D printing shop was “more dangerous than shops that sell alcohol”. “This is going to encourage people to buy idols for their children. We have to close down this shop, quickly!” he said, in a sermon posted on Twitter.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry kicked back against this outcry in a press release, saying that the Alyoucifi, which is the local distributor of Doob products (Doob is headquartered in Germany), had not broken any law. But despite this, Alyoucifi announced on September 16 that it had decided to take all of the 3D models it had off the shelves and to stop the printing service in order “to protect its employees from any reprisals”.
Kuwaitis mock conservatives
On social media, Kuwaitis came out in force to mock the opinions of the religious conservatives. Many posted photos of their figurines or toy collections to show how ridiculous they thought the controversy was.
Translation: "Look at how beautiful my idols are!"
Translation: "Just a little snapshot of my idols."
Translation: "Here is one of my idols, apparently threatening the cohesion of society."
Translation: "The idols I have at home!"
Translation: "At the office, I also have idols."
Kuwait is not the only Gulf country where Doob opened a store. The brand also has a shop in Bahrain, where it has been operating without any backlash so far. According to a local media, sales have even gone up since the shop in Kuwait was closed.