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The illustrator of the Biff, Chip and Kipper children’s book is reportedly ‘profoundly upset’ at the decision by his publisher to pulp his work over claims the children’s book is Islamophobic .
A friend of Alex Brychta who received an MBE for his work – that is used by children learning to read – say he is ‘sensitive and empathetic’ to the region where his wife’s family lives in Jordan.
But the Biff, Chip and Kipper story has been removed by Oxford University Press who has apologised for any offence caused by the book published 21 years ago.
Speaking to the Telegraph, defending Mr Brychta the pal maintains that the ‘racism’ row is ‘incredibly silly’ and point out that he is married to Dina, a Muslim, and has recently gave readings of his books in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where children ‘loved’ the Magic Key series.
Friends of Alex Brychta (pictured) who received an MBE for his work say he is ‘sensitive and empathetic’ to region where his wife’s family lives in Jordan.
But the Biff, Chip and Kipper story (pictured) – used in classrooms across the UK to help teach children to read – has been removed by Oxford University Press who has apologised for any offence caused
Mr Brychta, who got his honour from the Queen in 2012 Alex for services to children’s literature, fled from the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia to London, and collaborated with Roderick Hunt who wrote the books.
His Oxford Reading Tree book, entitled The Blue Eye, sees the protagonists magically transported to a generic Middle Eastern-looking country.
In one scene baddies – which are seen to be Muslim chase after the heroes – and are also described as ‘unfriendly’ and ‘scary’.
The adventure also features a princess named Aisha, who is being chased by a hoard of angry men determined to steal a magic stone called The Blue Eye from her.
She tells the child protagonists, Wilf and Biff, – who now star in a Cbeebies TV show – that she cannot become Queen in her homeland without the blue crystal.
He has not commented on the allegations publicly but a ‘close friend’ told The Telegraph: ‘This is all incredibly silly. Alex is profoundly upset that his work has been accused of being Islamophobic.
‘He is married to a Muslim woman of Iraqi origin, whose family now live in Jordan. He has visited that country and the Middle East on several occasions and his work is sensitive and empathetic to the region.
‘Only a few years ago, he gave readings of his books to hundreds of children at schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and they loved it.’
Pictured: In one scene in the book, a man in a turban and combat trousers is illustrated kicking open a wooden door – which Wilf says is ‘scary’ after they were chased down a back street
The book – published in 2001 – was pulled last month by publishers Oxford University Press (OUP) with the firm saying their own few remaining copies had been destroyed.
In one market scene, men wear white flowing robes and white turbans with dark glasses and facial hair, while a woman can be seen strolling through the stalls dressed in what appears to be a niqab – a veil covering the face from below the eyes – and a headscarf.
The child characters suggest some of the shoppers seem ‘unfriendly’.
In another scene, the protagonists find themselves in a narrow backstreet after being dragged through a magic portal, before a man in a turban and combat trousers is illustrated kicking open a wooden door – which Wilf says is ‘scary’.
Canadian think tank Anti Bias Curriculum Project said it was ‘disgusting’ the book had been printed and this was a ‘clear example’ of how parents and educators have a a responsiblity to prevent children being ‘racist’.
English teacher Sherish Osman said: ‘What else makes me uncomfortable is teachers who claim to see nothing wrong with this, and continue to expose our children to it, not realising the damage they are causing.’
A book called The Blue Eye has been pulled by publishers after social media users called out its portrayal of seemingly Muslim characters, saying it encouraged Islamophobia and racism
But many people on social media have pointed out that the language was used towards the story’s baddies and was not reflective of the fictional children’s attitude towards anyone else in the land.
Leonardo de Waal said: ‘What perhaps is inappropriate is that we jump to conclusions before setting the context.
‘This is precisely what we should avoid.
‘It’s a story where these children must hide something precious and become paranoid in the process.’
Asma Jaleel said: ‘Those two characters are used in literacy books and travel to different locations to teach children.
‘As it’s Ramadan it makes sense they are witnessing a marketplace in an Eastern country!’
In a follow-up tweet she added: ‘Unfriendly yes…in judgement! But this is how you break down biassed views by having a debate.
‘We don’t judge on appearance! Why are they dressed different, culture/ faith?’
Oxford University Press previously confirmed the tale was no longer in print and said in a statement: ‘The title in question – The Blue Eye – was originally published in 2001 and amended in 2012; the last sentence of text on the page in question was changed to read: “It would be easy to lose each other in such a crowded place”.
‘The book was then taken out of print completely in March this year, following an independent review, and is no longer available to purchase.
‘OUP destroyed its own remaining stock of the book, although a small number of copies may still remain in the supply chain; some older titles may still be available in libraries, or as second-hand copies.
‘At OUP, 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 from our collection.
‘We also continuously listen to feedback from our customers, and we take our responsibility to learn and improve very seriously.’