LONDON: A road safety campaign in the UK that uses images of a young cartoon character wearing a hijab has dropped the pictures after it was accused of “sexualising” children.
The 2 million pounds campaign, promoted by Transport for London, includes childrens books distributed in nurseries as well as an interactive website.
The stories are illustrated with characters from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
The Muslim girl, aged three or four, is called Razmi and always shown wearing a religious headscarf. Razmi is seen indoors in the home of a Chinese girl and that childs grandmother and on outings, The Times reported. The Childrens Traffic Club London, promoted by Transport for London (TfL), has recruited more than 66,000 children across the capital.
TfL, which is chaired by Sadiq Khan, the capitals Labour mayor, has apologised and said that it would stop using the images, the report said.
The books were introduced under his Conservative predecessor Boris Johnson, now the foreign secretary, in 2015.
Gina Khan, an advocate of Islamic womens equality, was quoted as saying, “You are sexualising a four-year-old girl. It is as simple as that. The reason a female is covered is so men dont look at her. How can you integrate in society if you have a four-year-old girl wearing a hijab?”
Shaista Gohir, chairwoman of the Muslim Womens Network UK charity, said, “Its like trying to get that child to try to grow up far too quickly. A child needs to be treated like a child.” Aisha Ali-Khan, a Muslim feminist campaigner, said the publishers of the book need diversity training.
“The hijab is a Saudi-isation of British Muslim identity,” she said. “If you are a Muslim girl and look at these images and see this girl is Muslim and she is wearing a hijab and you arent, you will think theres something wrong with you. It is far too young. You are a child. What are you being modest for?” she added.
Dame Louise Casey, the governments integration tsar, intervened in a row in Birmingham this year when a Catholic school came under pressure to let a four-year-old girl wear a Muslim headscarf.
She has expressed concern that “time and again I found it was women and children who were the targets of these (kind of) regressive practices” against the vulnerable.
A TfL spokeswoman was quoted as saying, “We apologise for any offence caused by this content and we will not use these designs in future.”