21st Century Technology Shut Down by 6th Century Beliefs?

By on September 19th, 2018 in Event

Tags: , , , , ,

 Figurines in a Kuwaiti 3D print shop that’s been ordered shut down [Source: BBC, Alqabas]
Figurines in a Kuwaiti 3D print shop that’s been ordered shut down [Source: BBC, Alqabas]

In an amazing story from Kuwait, a 3D print service has been ordered shut because of “Idolatry”.


Idolatry is something I’ve read about, but only in history books. Wikipedia defines Idolatry as:

“Idolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol’, also known as a cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue or icon. In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God. In these and several other monotheistic religions, idolatry has been considered as the ‘worship of false gods’ and is forbidden.”

The unnamed 3D print shop was apparently closed by anonymous authorities in the Gulf state because the purpose of the business was to 3D print figurines of scanned individuals. These are typically used as family mementos or business gifts. The practice of scanning to figurine 3D printing is well established worldwide and there are businesses performing such services in almost every major city on the planet.

But apparently not now in Kuwait.

Apparently some felt that the production of these figurines is essentially the same as producing “idols”, which, as per the definition above, is forbidden in some religions. While the figurines may clearly be mementos, some apparently fear they will somehow be worshipped.

This is why Islamic art does not feature living beings and thus is highly geometric. There is a concern that any representations of living things may compromise the role and position of the supreme god in that religion.

It’s entirely unclear from the BBC article, but one would suspect that the 3D print shop was shut down due to its APPLICATION of 3D printing, rather than the technology itself. If 3D printing technology were viewed as at fault because of its ability to perform the application alone, then we are due for some dark times in that region.

3D printing can be used for countless useful applications, only one of which is figurine production. It would be absurd and overreacting to eliminate something quite productive because of a single use that’s viewed illegal. An analogous situation might be this: the US Interstate Highway system is occasionally used by bank robbers. Therefore we should shut it down, am I right?

No, that’s a ridiculous scenario.

But even if the Kuwaiti authorities shut the shop based on their application, I am completely unclear on other related technologies that can also produce artifacts that could be viewed as “idols”. For example, any printshop could print 2D images of people. Any home or business printer could do the same. Any smartphone could capture said images and display them digitally – or promote them worldwide in a manner that can’t be done with physical idols.

This move doesn’t seem to make much sense, and according to the BBC story there are many who are thinking the same.


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!