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Children’s book withdrawn for its ‘Islamophobia’

27th May 2022

Harun Nasrullah
A children’s book from a popular series has been withdrawn from print in March following complaints that its portrayal of Muslims was Islamophobic.

Oxford University Press has withdrawn copies of The Blue Eye, in which young characters are transported to a foreign land with the help of a magic key. The children appear in a busy street market, which looks to be somewhere in the Middle East. The men wear turbans and a woman is dressed in a niqab. “Let’s stay together,” says Biff. “The people don’t seem very friendly.”
Another character, Wilf, says: “I don’t like this place. It’s scary.”

Oxford University Press (OUP) said it commissioned an independent review of the Biff, Chip and Kipper books after receiving complaints. The publisher said copies of the book had been withdrawn from print and the remaining stock destroyed.

A spokesman for OUP said, “We regularly review and make changes to our list of titles to ensure they are up-to-date, diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the world we live in, and we take steps to remove any products that are no longer appropriate. We sincerely apologise for the offence this book has caused.”

The Blue Eye is one of several that have been withdrawn, although OUP declined to name the others as they said the list was regularly updated. A spokesman said: “As part of a continuous review of our publishing, Oxford University Press takes the decision to put stories out of print when they are deemed to fall short of the high standards of diversity and inclusivity we wish to promote through our publishing. In addition to this, titles may be amended or updated.”

An image of the market scene attracted complaints when it was circulated on social media. While some readers said critics should see the dialogue and plot in the context of “baddies” pursuing the princess, and suggested that the children were simply scared by being in unfamiliar surroundings, others said that it was Islamophobic.

“What makes this so bad is that this book is used in schools to teach kids to read. So they also get to learn how to be Islamophobic at the same time,” said one Twitter user. The Biff, Chip and Kipper collection, which includes over 800 titles, has been used in primary schools for over 30 years and was recently made into a show on the children’s channel CBeebies.

(Credit: @sherish_o/Twitter CC)

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