Biff, Chip and Kipper illustrator is ‘upset’ about his work being smashed over ‘Islamophobia’ claims
Children’s book illustrator Biff, Chip and Kipper is said to be “deeply upset” by his publisher’s decision to curb his work for posterity that the children’s book is Islamophobic.
A friend of Alex Brychta who received an MBE for his work – which is used by children learning to read – says he is “sensitive and empathetic” to the area where his wife’s family lives in Jordan.
But Biff, Chip and Kipper’s story has been taken down by Oxford University Press, which has apologized for any offense caused by the book, which was published 21 years ago.
Speaking to the Telegraph, defending Mr Brychta, the pal argues the ‘racism’ row is ‘incredibly silly’ and points out that he is married to Dina, a Muslim, and recently gave readings from her books at Abu Dhabi and Dubai where the kids “loved” the Magic Key series.
Friends of Alex Brychta (pictured) who received an MBE for his work say he is ‘sensitive and empathetic’ to the area where his wife’s family live in Jordan
But the story of Biff, Chip and Kipper (pictured) – used in classrooms across the UK to help teach children to read – has been removed by Oxford University Press who have apologized for any infringement caused
Mr Brychta, who won his Queen’s Honor in 2012 Alex for his services to children’s literature, fled the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia to London and collaborated with Roderick Hunt who wrote the books.
His book Oxford Reading Tree, titled The Blue Eye, sees the protagonists magically transported to a generic Middle Eastern-looking land.
In one scene, the villains – who are seen as Muslims chase the heroes – and are also portrayed as “unfriendly” and “creepy”.
The adventure also features a princess named Aisha, who is pursued by a horde 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 can’t become queen in her homeland without the blue crystal.
He has not publicly commented on the allegations, but a ‘close friend’ told the Telegraph: ‘This is all incredibly stupid. Alex is deeply upset that his work has been accused of being Islamophobic.
“He is married to a Muslim woman of Iraqi origin, whose family now lives in Jordan. He has visited this country and the Middle East on several occasions and his work is sensitive and empathetic to the region.
“Just a few years ago he gave readings from his books to hundreds of children in schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and they loved it.”
Pictured: In a scene from the book, a man wearing a turban and combat pants is shown opening a wooden door – which Wilf says is ‘scary’ after being chased down an alley
The book – published in 2001 – was withdrawn last month by publishers Oxford University Press (OUP), with the company saying their few remaining copies had been destroyed.
In a market scene, men wear flowing white robes and white turbans with dark glasses and facial hair, while a woman can be seen walking through the stalls wearing what appears to be a niqab – a veil covering the face under the eyes – and a scarf.
The child characters suggest that some buyers seem “unfriendly”.
In another scene, the protagonists find themselves in a narrow alley after being dragged through a magic portal, before a man in a turban and combat pants is shown opening a wooden door – which Wilf said “scary”.
Canadian think tank Anti Bias Curriculum Project said it was “disgusting” that the book had been printed and that it was a “clear example” of how parents and educators have a responsibility to prevent children to be “racist”.
English teacher Sherish Osman said: “What makes me uncomfortable are teachers who pretend to see nothing wrong with it and continue to expose our children to it, not realizing the damage ‘they speak.”
A book called The Blue Eye has been pulled by publishers after social media users called out its depiction of seemingly Muslim characters, saying it encouraged Islamophobia and racism.
But many people on social media pointed out that the language was used towards the villains of the story and did not reflect the attitude of the fictional children towards anyone in the country.
Leonardo de Waal said: “What is perhaps inappropriate is that we jump to conclusions before setting the context.
“This is precisely what we should avoid.
“It’s a story where these kids have to hide something valuable and become paranoid in the process.”
Asma Jaleel said, “These two characters are used in literacy books and go to different places to teach children.
“As it is Ramadan, it makes sense that they are attending a market in an Eastern country!”
In a follow-up tweet, she added: “Unfriendly yes… on trial!” But that’s how you break down biased opinions by having a debate.
“We don’t judge on appearance! Why are they dressed differently, culture/faith? »
Oxford University Press previously confirmed that the story 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 the text of the page in question has been changed to read: “It would be easy to get lost in such a crowded place”.
“The book was then completely out of print in March this year, following an independent review, and is no longer available for purchase.
‘OUP has 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 current, diverse, inclusive and reflective of the world we live in, and we take steps to remove any products that do not are most suitable from our collection.
“We also constantly listen to feedback from our customers and take our responsibility to learn and improve very seriously.”