Publishers have pulled and pulped a children’s book tied to a BBC TV spin-off after claims it was racist and used bad stereotypes to depict Muslims.
Oxford University Press (OUP) apologised for scenes in The Blue Eye, a Biff, Chip and Kipper story used in classrooms to help children to develop reading skills.
In the book, its child heroes travel to the Middle East, where people are described as “scary” and “unfriendly” .
OUP confirmed that the book, a blue label title aimed at children aged 5 and 6, is no longer in print.
“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,'" it said.
“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.”
The Oxford Reading Tree books also have a spin-off CBeebies TV series called Biff & Chip, with new storylines.
In one scene in The Blue Eye, the children are in a busy market where men are wearing turbans and the only woman is wearing a veil.
“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.”
A man in a turban is also shown kicking down a door.
The Blue Eye is one of about 800 titles created by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta.
The Canadian educational organisation, Anti Bias Curriculum Project, expressed dismay at the book's publication.
“Racism is taught and this is a clear example of how not only do parents have a responsibility to prevent their children from being racist, but educators too," it said.
“Disgusting how this was even allowed to be published or even put on to children's bookshelves.”