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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. eye625

    Poster has been taken down, yet it is now plastered all over the internet thanks to the media... once again, the media is not thinking.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Blaming media is idiotic. Media simply reports what is. The poster appeared. Media reported it.

      What part of that confuses you?

      November 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  2. Kassandra Reyes

    They are surely lying when they say they had not intent on doing wrong.
    They're making fun of both religions.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Jaret

      It's clear that they know what they are doing. This is certainly a ploy to get free media attention. Anyone who wants to promote peace by promoting controversy clearly has other motives.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  3. NTHK - 111

    CNN loves to post anything hinting h-o-m-o-s-e-xuality... Either they get a kick out of it, or it's their agenda to promote it... I rather think it's both. Utterly disgusting!

    November 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • zombie

      Eww a straight person. How disgusting.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • NTHK - 111

      You are a twisted person and you are DEAD!

      November 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  4. Joshua Lopez

    It is in the culture of the Middle East, that Men kiss their fellow Men in such a manner and I personally see nothing wrong in it with regards to the ad. It sends a very strong message of Love, Peace, Joy & Hope as we head to Advent & Christmas.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • mohammed was a catholic priest and lover of alter boys

      In the middle east, it goes something like this; Women are for procreating, men are for pleasure.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Reemo

      In the Middle East it is custom that the man kisses a man on the cheek not on the mouth! If you don't have your facts right don't go around typing them everywhere.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Joshua Lopez

      Remmo, You are wrong!

      November 17, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Obviously you have no idea what you are talking about JL.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:49 am |
  5. enkephalin07

    gaaah, I'm really grateful I didn't see that in larger-than-life size.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  6. JohnnyGenius

    I'm a pretty socially liberal person but this is incredibly disrespectful. It was obviously done to get a reaction and publicity, and what's worse, all in the name of commercialism.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • JohnnyGenius

      Oh, and their clothes suck too.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Martin

      Johnny:
      Best comment on the Blog.. you nailed it. They 100% knew it would be controversial.. they are doing high 5s and popping the corks right now. The people whom they irritated are not their demographic in the first place.. they are selling to young liberals.
      This is a major advertising win.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  7. JASON w

    "What were they thinking?" That they can take an offensive approach to what we hold sacred for its shock value and bring attention to thier crappy product that could not sell on its own merit. Tell me what is more offensive than a Capitalist who makes their clothes in sweatshops while at the same time markets themselves as a free thinking ultraliberal?

    November 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  8. robert richardson

    Its funny and not meant to mock religion, but I wish it did as religion is ripe for mockery.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  9. stardust

    Would have been better if they'd been mounting one another.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  10. Passive Regressive

    Benetton pulls ad? This would be better if we change the header to Benetton pulls finger and something stinks

    November 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  11. hippypoet

    Whoaaaa bro that's crazy. what them thinking?

    November 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  12. Flex

    How low can you go.........another new low from the industry of non-sense. Insane is an understatement.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  13. OBA8YEARS

    END OF THE WORLD!!! "JESUS IS COMING IN A FEW MONTHS"

    November 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • feltjesus

      that's what she said.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  14. celine

    It's just gross. What were they thinking?

    November 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  15. Omer

    Seriously? Were they even thinking?

    November 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  16. feltjesus

    gods, they are SO not hot. who wants to see them kissing anyways? it's worse than seeing your parents doing it.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  17. Passive Aggressive

    Tessa, you insult me but what is your take on the issue? I am a nice person and enjoy conversation. I am bored listening to myself talk. Talke to me Tessa, please!!

    November 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Also I suk at using the Reply button.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      In other words, you just changed your name, Central Scrutinizer. Couldn't stay away.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • P00 Meister

      Yikes! You just got P00'D ON 🙁

      Fling the P00 off of me and onto you!

      November 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Passive Regressive

      pull my finger Passive

      November 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, look. Here's my little lap-dog, panting away yet again. Whatsamatter, little dweeb? Did I hand you your azz yet again?

      Guess what? It's your own fault for being a lame-o d*ck.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • hippypoet

      tom tom, i don't know which is which you or the imposter but both of you have been complete jerks. i wish both of you would go away. take a dirt nap.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  18. myoleman

    This is really beyond abusive. what a lack of respect for people. there should be a law against this type of abuse. The Lord deal with these abusive companies that totally disregard the reputation of other people.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • hmmmmi

      abuse is the catholic church covering up child abuse and the muslim imans agitating terrorist in the name of mohammend. get a reality check myoleman!

      November 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • stardust

      Blah blah blah. The Catholic church has been disrespecting people for millenia and now anyone is supposed to respect it.

      Blah blah blah.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  19. Biagio

    Does a rogue planet, known as Nibiru invading our solar system from deep space
    menace our world? Why does the Mayan Calendar end in 2012? And its there ...

    gaga use email – Sicily male 45 a1biagio@yahoo.com

    your the best xx

    A PLANET

    EVIL PLANET EVEIL energy OF THE WORLD .
    THE official HELL DAY – JESUS IS YOUR LORD GOD ,
    IM A MESSAGER OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST .

    THE END 21 DECEMBER , 2012

    end message........................................

    November 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • cocaine

      cocaine is a hell of a drug.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Billy Z

      Try lining your cowboy hat with aluminum foil – sometimes that helps.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  20. Jay Stewart

    User whatthe above is most likely spokesperson for Bennetton. Such persons like to blur right and wrong, so we can buy their theories, or rather their products.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:00 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.