Biff and Chip illustrator 'profoundly upset' after books destroyed in Islamophobia row

30 April 2022, 18:21

The book features a street market scene that sparked controversy
The book features a street market scene that sparked controversy. Picture: Other

By Daisy Stephens

A popular children's illustrator is said to be "profoundly upset" after one of his works sparked an Islamophobia row.

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A friend of Alex Brychta said the row was "incredibly silly" and that the illustrator of The Blue Eye was "profoundly upset", according to The Telegraph.

The book is part of the popular Biff, Chip and Kipper series, which have been used in primary schools for over 30 years.

In the book - which was taken out of print in March - the young characters find themselves in a busy street market, which appears to be Middle Eastern.

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One character says the people around them - the men wearing turbans and a woman in a niqab - "don't seem very friendly" and another says they do not like the place, saying it is "scary".

The dialogue attracted criticism and its publisher, Oxford University Press (OUP), has destroyed remaining copies of the book.

But Mr Brychta's friends said the illustrator has frequently visited the Middle East, and is married to a Muslim woman of Iraqi origin.

A close friend told The Telegraph his work "is sensitive and empathic to the region", and also said Mr Brychta had given readings to children in schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The illustrator's friends also pointed out that the book features many characters, of the same appearance and who wear the same clothes, who are friendly and welcoming.

They said it was "ridiculous" to accuse the book of being Islamophobic "just because one set of baddies are of Middle Eastern appearance".

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In a statement issued earlier this week, OUP said: "The book was 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 a 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.

"We also continuously listen to feedback from customers, and we take our responsibility to learn and improve very seriously.

"We sincerely apologise for the offence this book has caused."