Benetton pulls ad featuring doctored photo of pope kissing imam
A Benetton ad in Paris featuring a doctored photo of the pope kissing a prominent imam.
November 16th, 2011
04:27 PM ET

Benetton pulls ad featuring doctored photo of pope kissing imam

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - United Colors of Benetton announced Wednesday it is pulling an ad featuring a doctored picture of the pope kissing a male Muslim cleric on the same day the ad was unveiled in response to criticism.

The ad featured a fake picture of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, a prominent Muslim house of worship in Cairo, Egypt.

"We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms," Benetton said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful,” the statement by the fashion apparel company continued. “In corroboration of our intentions, we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication."

The ad was part of a campaign United Colors of Benetton unveiled Wednesday that features doctored photos of world leaders kissing each other and that aims to combat what the Italian-based company called a “culture of hatred.”

The series features fake photos of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, among other pairings.

The ads are appearing in print and online media around the world.

“The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders,” Benetton said in a Wednesday press release.

“These are symbolic images of reconciliation - with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation - to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.”

Benetton says the ad campaign accompanies the creation of a new organization called the UNHATE foundation.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Islam

soundoff (1,035 Responses)
  1. www.wkgreene.com

    Hello, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this post. It was practical. Keep on posting! http://www.wkgreene.com http://www.wkgreene.com/Scripts/image/img/xovxwj.asp

    June 7, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  2. Sir Craig

    "'We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms,' Benetton said in a statement on Wednesday."

    And yet they caved to that very hatred. Big surprise.

    December 2, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  3. JohnnyBKK

    And thus the reaction of the conservatives on both sides here goes on to prove exactly why the ad campaign was originated (that and selling a boatload of clothes due to all of the free publicity they have generated for the company). The row around the ad makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy nd thus the Benneton shoots and scores big by purposefully acting as a lightning rod.

    November 19, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  4. John Kinsella


    (Benetton scored an own goasl in the opening minutes of the contest)

    November 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Stan

    They should show the pope kissing his ass. That would be far more appropriate.

    November 19, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  6. Iqbal Khan

    Increase your knowledge.....


    November 18, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  7. tolerance goes both ways

    funny way of showing "unhate" – by attacking the beliefs of two major religions.

    November 18, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  8. CullThePopulace

    So this Benetton ad was posted in Paris.
    Gives new meaning to the term, 'French Kiss.'
    Enough to make me 'croak,' monsieur... pathetic.

    November 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • CullThePopulace

      Wait... Benetton is an Italian firm. Then if they want controversial subject matter, why not depict Berlusconi kissing the privates of those teen girls he molested with drugs and euros? Or better, with the judges and politicians he's paid. Oh, wait... how about with his now ex-wife?

      Yeah, Italy.
      A fun place with modern lotharios, pedadgogues, tatterdemalions and renaissance men. How wonderful.

      November 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  9. urban turner

    the way people think just makes me cringe!

    November 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    This morning I have heard a radio broadcast of Deutschlandfunk (DLF, a German radio station). There was an account that the current pope wants to create a new sacrament (a special sacrament of forgiveness for Africa). DLF may have misinterpreted the informations, which they got by the Vatican. But if the message is true, then there is a new proof for the anti-Christian presumption of the pope.

    The only one, who is allowed to insti-tute sacraments, is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He insti-tuted the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Both sacraments are supernatural by their divine insti-tution. The visible acts of both sacraments are actually ridiculous (for example a dressed person is bathed). However, it was Christ's intention to make the visible part of the sacrament as simple as possible. The sacraments become precious, when they are grasped by faith. The sacrament becomes precious for me, when I believe God's word, which He has connected with the visible acts, which are actually ridicolous in themselves. However, according to Christ's doctrine by Water and Spirit we get born from above. Baptism is like a mystical fountain of life-giving Water. That is the mystery of Holy Baptism. Baptism is a divine ceremony, at which I die and resurrect together with Jesus. My old man of sin has died and I got a new life in Jesus.

    The sacraments are the only legal or lawful and holy supernatural acts on earth . All other supernatural acts are strictly prohibited and called wizardry.

    Sacraments are supernatural processes. The supernatural power of the sacraments is attached by God himself. It is clear that no mere stupid human being can attach supernatural power to an actually ridiculous act like bathing a dressed man.

    Conclusion: When the pope presumes he could create another sacrament, he behaves like God. This is another proof for the abomination of papacy.

    Let us abolish papacy and Islam and the mankind will become happy. Of course, the demons, which empower papacy and Islam can solely overcome by divine power. God will help only the people, which believe in Him. Thus, the mankind needs faith. Will Jesus find faith on earth, when he returns?

    November 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Brad

      Then how should "we" abolish the papacy? Or Islam?

      November 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Doobie

      Your an idiot.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • John Kinsella

      Your comments are quite eclectic, ignoring the sacrament of penance for instance when Jesus commissioned to Peter and his successors the power to forgive "whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven" and "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven". Why ignore these words of Jesus. Rainer, have you ever heard the saying: "better to keep your mouth shut and be considered a FOOL, rather than open it and remove all doubt" Clearly this saying applies to you. For goodness sake read the whole of the New Testament, not just snippets here and there that suit your prejudice.

      November 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  11. onefeather

    I go to No church and hold to No Man made religion..But Islam is a hate filled dangerous teaching/religion. If one says it is not then they have Not read or done honset research on it.

    November 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Mazen

      what kind of researches you have done to reach this conclusion?

      November 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • alberts

      I am a Catholic, but what you're saying is not true at all. I have lots of Islam friends and they are kind. And I don't think you know this (even if you said you did research) that Islam is like Catholic in old testament. And, both religions is good because they belief in God. And they both also have fanatics which often do bad things for their religion in the name of their religion. Thus, the religion is never but, but the people who do bad things for it is the one that is bad and dangerous.

      November 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    The above photo may be a little indecent, but it expresses a spiritual truth.

    I have read a big part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was drafted by the current pope and approved by John Paul II. In this lousy book you can read that the pope acknowledges Islam as a lawful religion. That is a heavy spiritual crime. The Lord has commanded to condemn heresies like Islam and not to greet the heretics. Islam is not only an ordinary heresy, but the most dangerous heresy of all ages. It belongs to the core tenets of the genuine Islam to destroy the Christian Church. The core tenet of Islam is: "Don't ascribe partners to Allah!" But that is, what the Christians do. We ascribe a partner to God: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and a person of the holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    Former Christians have called the pope the Western Antichrist and Muhammad the Eastern Antichrist. Their statements were true. The two Antichrists support each other by their lies.

    The truth: Islam can save nobody or cannot save anybody. Islam is no divine religion, but a demonic supersti-tion, which promotes the carnal desires of man, instead of damping them. Islam denies the only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is the only one, who is able to deliver us from our sins. Islam degrades Jesus to a mere spiritual teacher or Islamic leader (!) (Imam), but in fact he is God himself. Godhead and mankind are perfectly united in Jesus Christ, thus he is able to help us, because he knows, what we feel.

    November 18, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • hippypoet

      right.. wow.. if you take everything but the first sentence out, i totally agree – after that, FUK NO! you are full of hate for another belief then your own and you justify it thru your belief – thats pure irony! Did you that islam believes in jesus as a prophet? You may have more in common then you think. You disagree with them, they likewise to you.... its a love hate relationship built on mutual delusion. Your like twins separated at birth!

      November 18, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      I have never heard of Christian conquests, but merely of Muslim conquests. It is the Islam, which caused infinite bloodshed, but not Christianity. No aggressive war can be reasoned by the Christian doctrine. In contrast, aggressive war belongs to the core tenets of Islam. The false Prophet died in 632 a. D.. The Muslim conquests began in 634 a. D.. If Muhammad would have preached peace and love, why did his successors, the caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, etc..), conduct aggressive war?

      November 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      Rainer, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that "no one can come to Me unless the Father draws him (to Jesus)." Therefore, faith is a gift, isn't it? What of those people who have not been given the gift of faith through no fault of their own? Does God throw them into the infernal file 13? I don't think so. At Caesarea Phillip, when Jesus asked "who do you say I am?", Peter replied "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus reply: "... blessed are you, Simon, flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father." These passages show that we cannot ignore God's own initiatives. The Catholic church has said that anyone who is saved is saved by Christ WHETHER THE PERSON KNOWS IT OR NOT.

      November 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • John Kinsella

      Rainer, once again you display your ignorance and lack of logic: "The truth: Islam can save nobody or cannot save anybody" Are you divinely inspired? For goodness sake read the whole of the New Testament with an open mind. If you do, I will be happy to welcome you with me into the One True Faith of the Catholic Church, which acknowledges the words of St Peter from Acts: "The truth is that God has no favourites, but receives any person of good will". Clearly this includes our fellow Muslims who arealso sons of Abraham. The hatred that is so evident in your blogs is clearly unworthy of a true disciple of the Lord who from the Cross forgave those who had crucified him: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". In all charity I suggest that you are doing harm and are unaware of "what you do", This is serious. Examine yourself and avail of the Sacrament of Penance by a good confession before your hatred consumes you.

      November 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.