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. greg

    Mission accomplished! I thought Benetton died with Rick Astley! Well played Benetton!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  2. ghittsum

    Many cathedrals will burn because of this. It's really dumb to anger the muslims; they'll slit your throat and the world will blame you for provoking them.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Uhhh

      Riigghhtt. It's amazing how almost 2 billion people can think and act exactly alike, all at the same time, eh? *sarcasm*

      November 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  3. PennStateGrad

    I kinda like it!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Eric of Reseda

    What a MAJOR misstep by Benetton. I'm a Liberal and I'M offended!!! If the photo was real, no problem. But to doctor a photo like this is inexcusable. In fact, it's heinous. Not hat I care two bits for the Church – hate it, actually – or Islam – hate it, actually – but this photo can ONLY cause unrest and anger. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And the in-house and agency creatives who came up with this should be fired, like, yesterday.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm |


      November 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Bible, your CAPS LOCK is still on . Are you thick?

      November 17, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • ashrakay

      heinous |ˈhānəs|
      adjective (of a person or wrongful act, esp. a crime) utterly odious or wicked.

      REALLY? Seems like you're only liberal with your vocabulary.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  5. coast

    where is the photo of Imam and Rabbi french-kissing each other? that would cause world war 3

    November 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  6. seth mcfarlane

    Love it! Good for you Benetton!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  7. terry

    Why don't they just make better clothing, and leave the "life changing" ads to people that actually are not trying to sell .

    November 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  8. HZD

    Oh, give me a break. What complete BS! "We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful." Yeah, like your ENTIRE point wasn't to try to offend the sensibilities of Catholics and Muslims both.

    If you are going to be obnoxious, at least have the integrity to be up front about what you are trying to do. If you pee in someone's coffee, don't tell them it's because you thought their cup was the urinal.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      I don't see how you can be more upfront than that. That is just the 'ol middle finger.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Matthew

      My first thought was how could someone be such an idiot to approve this add. But you are correct, this had to have been done on purpose.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  9. Ralph

    I have no problems with the ad(s), but if Benetton didn't expect there to be backlash, then they really aren't connected to the world these days.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  10. Terry Brookman

    F:+k the pope and all Muslims

    November 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • The King Of Jews

      Here! Here!

      November 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Uhhh

      Pope = 1 guy. Muslims = an entire people. Yeah, it is kinda cool to hate on the current bogeyman (Muslims) nowadays, eh? Keep following the herd, sheep.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  11. letsgomets2011(and 2012!)

    That dumb clothing company is still around???

    My goodness. I thought they went out with parachute pants and the Commodore!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  12. Be Afraid

    Bad decision, damage is done.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Great decision!

      November 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  13. John the Baptist

    They clearly have love for one another.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  14. John the Baptist

    The only thing doctored about this picture is that it is zoomed in.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  15. Karl Blessing

    Funny that by pulling the ad, they're actually getting it out there faster than any normal ad medium could.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Sticky Socks


      November 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Martin

      THAT was a very large brain fart!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  16. tnmtl

    Oh please... when will all the religious fanatics get over themselves?!!! How could someone be offended?? Oh yeah... peace with those other evil odious people would be a terrible thing!!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Alan Shih


      You missed the point. It is not entirely for the religious reasons. It is about how one shouldn't use other to promote an act or idea that they did not agree to. If I doctored your image praying to God as a "religious fanatic" to promote religious ideas, I am sure that you would not appreciate that. Benetton actually got part of the campaign idea right. They allow public to upload their kissing moments to promote "Unhate". If they use those images, then that would actually be a great campaign. But they really screwed this one up, and came up with these doctored, totally bad taste images, of different pairs kissing, is simply WRONG, religious or not. Like other said, the damage is done. I used to like Benetton's clothing actually, but after seeing that ad, it really disgusts me when I see their clothes.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  17. ashrakay

    Considering the catholic church's propensity toward pedophilia, this seems like misplaced anger.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Matthew

      The Catholic church does not have a propensity toward pedophilia. Pedophiles make up 2 to 3 percent of the general population, while they make up less than half a percent of the priesthood. Yes we should weep that even one priest becomes a Judas, but you have a misplaced understanding on the reality because the press puts the 'Dog Bites Man' stories to the forefront.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  18. Deist 1#

    They should get Married as not to offend their individual Gods(Allah and The lord)

    November 16, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Uhhh

      Oh not this again. "Allah" is literally the Arab word for "God." Even Arab Christians refer to their Lord/God as "Allah." Quit thinking it's a name like Jesus.

      November 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  19. curt

    That's a pretty gay Ad right there.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  20. travis

    Terrible ad for a few things other than the point it is trying to make. Defamation/Slander and using a persons image without their approval. If I disliked Toyota and someone put up a picture of me driving one without even using my consent I would be irritated and would have grounds to sue. Using fictional people would be acceptable.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Travis. Apples and Oranges. Dumb A ss

      November 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Uhhh

      Just curious: what super exotic car do you drive, travis?

      November 16, 2011 at 10:36 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.