The Islamic roots of *Star Wars*

by on June 4, 2009 at 7:44 am in Film, Religion | Permalink

This is even better than having a Muslim President:

…the Arabic word for "great," akbar, has been adapted into George Lucas's Star Wars franchise, in the form of Admiral Ackbar, a heroic character and military commander whose success in space helps Luck Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance repel Darth Vader's Galactic Empire.  Featured in Return of the Jedi, Ackbar is just one of many characters and settings in the Star Wars universe that have an Arabic background.  Luke Skywalker's home planet, Tatooine, takes its name from the Tunisian city of Tataouine (al-Tataouine in Arabic).  Darth Vader's home planet is Mustafar, a slight variation of Mustafa, an Arabic name that means "the chosen one" (and is one of 99 names for the Muslim prophet Muhammad).  Attack of the Clones showcases Queen Jamilla, whose name is a slight variation of jamilla, an Arabic word for "beautiful."  And Revenge of the Sith features Senator Meena Tills, whose first name means "heaven" in Arabic.

That is from Jonathan Curiel's often interesting Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots.  The book also has an intriguing discussion of Islamic influences on the architecture of the World Trade Center.

1 james B. June 4, 2009 at 8:06 am

It’s a trap!

2 Craig June 4, 2009 at 8:45 am

I don’t know all the reasons for the Arabic names, but it isn’t surprising that they named Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, after a Tunisian city; after all, that portion of Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia.

3 NE1 June 4, 2009 at 10:14 am

On the other hand, Luke’s Mom is named Shmi, as in Hindu’s Lakshmi.

4 charlie June 4, 2009 at 10:46 am

I always thought Meena was a hindu name — short for Meenakshi

5 Noah June 4, 2009 at 11:16 am

Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” figured heavily in Lucas’ writing of the original storyline. The book focused on various cultures’ religious/mythic traditions…so there are plenty of cultural traditions represented in the franchise.

6 KingM June 4, 2009 at 11:42 am

If you go to Tatooine, Tunisia, you can still see the set of Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home in one of the troglodyte dwellings. Because of the aridity, the set has deteriorated very little over the last 30 years, even though much of the high-tech looking stuff is just painted foam rubber.

The dwelling was once a personal house but is now a very inexpensive hotel, where the rooms are dug into the side of the caves. I stayed a couple of nights at the hotel in late 2007. A rather surreal experience.

7 mobile June 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Mustafar was the volcanic planet at the end of Revenge of the Sith where Obi-wan Kenobi fought Anakin Skywalker and where Anakin sustained his lava-related injuries. Much more at, uh, Wookieepedia.

8 James June 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Admiral Ackbar should have been called Captain Obvious, on top of the fact that if Lando hadn’t convinced him to not retreat the Empire would have won. What does “Lando” mean in Arabic?

9 John Thacker June 4, 2009 at 2:16 pm

All certainly better names than his “Nute Gunray.”

10 Edward Burke June 4, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Well, but let’s not slight American Shriners, who have their Omar, Hejaz, etc., temple names emblazoned on their funky fezes . . . .

11 Andrew June 4, 2009 at 11:47 pm

You realize, of course that we don’t actually have a muslim president…

12 Ali June 5, 2009 at 9:44 am

You mean Arabic roots, not really Islamic roots…

13 Seamus Buscuit July 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Nute Gunray was based on Ronald Wilson Reagan?

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15 moncler November 4, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Meena is a common Indian name, and through derivation a not unusual Thai name. It is also the foundation of the name in Thai for the month of March, Meenakom. I understand it has something to do with fish and may be related to the astrological symbol for pisces.

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