The guidelines, issued by publisher Oxford University Press (OUP), suggest writers do not use any words related to pork (which Muslims and Jews are prohibited from eating) in books intended for export outside of the UK.
During a BBC debate on free speech on Tuesday held in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris, Today Programme presenter Jim Naughtie revealed his wife the author Eleanor Updale had received a letter advising such from the publishing house.
Naughtie said: “I’ve got a letter here which was sent out by Oxford University Press to an author doing something for young people.
“Among the things prohibited in the text that was commissioned by OUP was the following: ‘Pigs (plus anything else which could be perceived as pork’.
“Now, if a respectable publisher tied to an academic institution is saying you’ve got to write a book in which you cannot mention pigs because some people might be offended, it’s just ludicrous, it is just a joke.”
A spokesman for Penguin said its publishing house did not have similar guidelines in place.
Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood told the newspaper: “I absolutely agree [with James Naughtie].
“That’s absolute utter nonsense. And when people go too far, that brings the whole discussion into disrepute.”
The OUP spokesman told HuffPost UK: “Our materials are sold in nearly 200 countries and as such, and without compromising our commitment in any way, we encourage some authors of educational materials respectfully to consider cultural differences and sensitivities.
“Guidelines for our educational materials differ between geographies and do not cover our academic publishing.”
Despite this, the revelation has been roundly criticised on Twitter, with some branding the policy itself “stupid and offensive” and “establishment pandering to Muslims”.
Paul Kemp-Robertson joked: “Oxford University Press set to rewrite Orwell’s Animal Farm to feature only hamsters and alpacas.”