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. S

    Well, they say it's a doctored photo....LOL. Isn't it and Italian thing for men to kiss and hold hands in public?

    November 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      Look closely at the photo! The Pope is slipping him the tongue.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  2. Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs


    November 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  3. QS

    LOL! Oh the complete and utterly delicious irony - an ad campaign to combat "a culture of hatred" uses photos of world and religious leaders showing understanding and compassion for each other....and the people most opposed to such a message of understanding and compassion are the religious!

    If it wasn't so absolutely laughable it might be enough to make me cry out of sheer frustration regarding religious arrogance.

    Religion – the world's ultimate dividing force!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • thomas mc

      Religion IS the seed of mental illness.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • muhammed-lol

      A heathen such as yourself would not understand that a Christian would never condone such repulsive behavior from the leader of the Catholic church.
      But since you see just 2 men kissing on the lips, and think that is totally normal behavior for your reprehensible lifestyle, you can ONLY see irony.
      I thank the Lord that you social lepers are in the vast minority...

      November 17, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      As muhammed-lol points out very correctly, those who consider themselves "true" christians are opposed to any act of love or affection unless it falls within their narrow category of approval. That's why they are some of the angriest, most hateful people on these blogs.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  4. albert

    Mmm, Hmm, sure it was "Doctored"

    November 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Jesus

      The Pope was a former Hitler Youth and may have been the lover of Ernst Roehm.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  5. yaddyaddyYWN

    Once again, pushing the envelope....and I like it!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  6. popcorn


    November 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  7. GSA

    @Sean – haha. Man you just made my day, sure you didn't mean to be so funny but I can't stop laughing at your post. On a side note, that Imam is way too old for the Pope.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  8. dale

    Yeah, you wouldn't want to offend the delusional followers of the Chief Pedophile.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Name (required)

      Jerry Sandusky?

      November 17, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  9. Su Lynn

    What a great ad! They should have never pulled it. Lets face it, its only offensive if you are a bigot.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • albert

      Your post is bigotry.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Your bigot is postery.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  10. WIll

    The Pope calls for end to violence in Nigeria but he cant stand this photo? Like Margret Cho said "Queen PLEASE!"

    November 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  11. Chuckles

    Raise your hand if you think they put this picture up because of the responses elicited by the other article on catholicism and ho.mo.se.xuality and want to elicit more comments!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Keep your hand raised if you think its going to work!

      November 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • J.W

      I bet someone in that organization reads the cnn belief blog.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  12. derp

    I am going to make one with then pope bent over and that Imam getting busy with the caption...

    .....Hey Benny, this is how an alter boy feels.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Su Lynn

      Tacky & Sad! But really funny!

      November 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Jesus

      Actually of it happened, it would be sweet justice.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  13. William Demuth

    Perhaps one of him in a Gestapo uniform buggering an altar boy might be more appropriate?

    November 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jesus

      People forget as young teen and Hitler Youth, he learned all about empathy. That's what made it so easy for him to dash the lives of young boys for the sake of the revenue machine called the Catholic Church.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  14. Nonimus

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

    The foundations first objective will be to mitigate the hate directed at Benetton for their UNHATE ad campaign.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Looks like they got their job cut out for them!

      November 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  15. hippypoet

    from the article.. "We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful”

    all this says is that people no matter what they are said to believe and practice, they still have hate and it controls them to a point of destruction of our freedom of the press...

    i think i will create a newspaper that runs whatever i damn well feel like... i will cut and paste all sorts of great things.. some will REALLY not like it, while others will get the humor and the intelligence behind it. I'll it "spliters"! or perhaps "whoa" .. i like whoa but spliters is nice too, besides being a complete pun. 😉

    November 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Ryan

      Nobody's freedom of press has been taken away here! They freely chose to retract the ad!

      November 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  16. Seriously Grossed Out


    November 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  17. Occupy Belief Blog

    I want more!

    Kim Jong il kissing Dubya
    Ahmadinejad kissing Pat Robertson

    You could go on and on!

    November 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  18. hippypoet

    loveeeeee it!

    November 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      I think it is lovely.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  19. sean

    This is not art its disrespectful, its like showing a brother having anals with his sister! is that art too? this guys are the remnant of morality still holding us together and people think this is funny. Why cant they show there daughter having a blow jabba jabba with the dad or something more serious, that will be cute too J.W.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Sean why can't you talk? What did you just say there?

      November 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • J.W

      Except the pope and the imam kissing is not incest. Plus this is showing unity between Muslims and Christians.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • derp

      "its like showing a brother having anals with his sister!"

      You would know.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Chuckles



      November 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Gumby

      I had anal with you sister, and it was WAY better than that photo.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      So....let me get this straight, Sean. Giving a friend or fellow respected leader a peck on the cheek is the same thing as showing somebody getting a BJ from their daughter!?!?!?!?!?!? Please, tell me, how many suns do you see when you look up at the sky on your planet?

      November 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Su Lynn

      Gee Sean, never realized all that stuff was the same as a kiss. Hummmm! No more kissing, someone could get the wrong idea.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  20. J.W

    Too bad it is fake. It is a cute photo.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • albert

      Two god-awful ugly men kissing is cute, really?!?

      November 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
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About this blog

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.