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. phoodphite2

    pope be robbin the cradle here a bit

    November 17, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  2. phoodphite2


    November 17, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • phoodphite2


      November 17, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  3. rw

    Benneton is simply way ahead of the pack in creating these visuals for ads against hate and killing each other. Leaders cannot advocate new ideas that are too far out ahead of what public opinion can embrace or their proposals will nearly always be rejected. (Witness Nixon's initial new ideas on changing our health care system some 45 years ago that have been too radical for the population to consider/accept up to 2011 and beyond.) The public must be educated, have time to digest, and then be brought along with new ideas which are typically quite threatening to accepted values and thinking that make us feel secure, though they may need to be shaken up. This is true in any sector of society. Benneton's ad campaign is loaded with visuals that immediately shock the viewers. The message of the power communication, of diplomacy, and of love, first, and trying to find common ground versus knee jerk reactions of going to war, is lost in reaction to the visuals. (By the way, I believe we do need an approprately strong military/defense system because indeed we have seen there are evil people who do not care if thousands or millions are slaughtered to preserve dictatotships.) However, Benneton should be commended for boldly calling attention to hatred between various groups/countries/religions and shaking everyone up with a volatile, shocking visual to fit the seriousnes of the problem confonting the world, all of us, and generations to come.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Answer


      I agree.

      Governments can not do this kind of shock advertising. They are supposed to represent a whole nation whereas individual companies can. I see these ads for what they are 'as advertising'. It has a good shock value.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  4. ProudCanadian60

    I find this campaign out of line..........creative minds don't produce this kind of trash. The people who promoted this need to find new jobs, like driving garbage dump trucks!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Answer

      You need better education and to do some self-introspection as to why your thoughts are the way you have them.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      It's called 'sanitation engineer', fcknut.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  5. Simple human

    Beneton ....$&@ing MORONs to put an add like this....almost half the worlds population are either Muslim or Christian/ catholic....goodbye to their Sales....idiots. What were they thinking...funny..scandal...idiotic is not the word. I personally won't be buying beneton anymore...could have learned form GAP..how that ship sank.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • D

      Shut up.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:08 am |
  6. Eric

    People are offended at this, and not offended by the picture of war criminal Bush making out with Saudi tyrant King Abdullah!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  7. Answer

    To the people who are offended:

    Would you be offended if these two exact persons of interest ACTUALLY did kiss each other in real life to really promote peace? I bet you would unanimously hail this single act as a divine inspiration from god that religion does get along.

    You'll be preaching phrases like " You see THIS you haters RELIGION DOES PROMOTE PEACE!" You will spew this out for the next picture of a nun kissing a nun I bet every dollar on it. But as it clearly shows in your vain attempts to reject a disparaging picture of FAKE PEACE you people who are religious will never accept peace. Peace is never in your interest at heart as shown by your disgust by this picture.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Answer

      At the heart of the REAL issue is your indoctrinated view that any kissing of two person FULLY on the lips (either both males, or both females) leads to gay behaviour. This is the one honest issue you can never tell anyone about because you firmly have this in your brain. Which is a simple fact – it is not true.

      If you were to be blindfolded and kiss a person behind a white sheet (where only the person lips were revealed) you would be NONE the wiser nor convinced it was not a person of the opposite s-e-x.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  8. Anonymous

    Disgusting photo.. disgusting comments..

    November 17, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      ...dumba.ss boring anonymous moron...

      November 17, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  9. John

    Well this is typical what I guess someone would learn in a college advertising/marketing class. You can't be any more creative then this?

    November 17, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  10. munkittrick

    It never fails to amaze me when good people try to do genuinely good things and get crucified (no pun intended) for the attempt. The Pope is just a dude with a funny hat who protects pedophiles at all costs under th guise of a religious ideal. The Imam is just a dude who abdicates violence as a pathway to reaching "Paradise" while slow-roasting people who have a different point of view. Personally, I'd have been less offended if they had stuck their heads on the bodies of naked teenage boys with disfigured bodies. At least the outside would have matched what they harbor for the others beliefs.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Atila the Hun

      dude, you need to see you psychologist fast

      November 17, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  11. High IQ'er

    The pope is a sicko who is the leader of the world's sickest religion, Catholicism. I am sure this supporter of pedophiles has kissed many a male in his life so I do not see the big controversy.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Phil

      Dont forget the pope was also part of Hitler youth when he was a kid.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Atila the Hun

      It's easy to take a cheapshot at those we do not like. But usually is those who criticize the ones that hide the worst perversions, sicko.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  12. suzanne

    Catholics priest are all gays. What's the problem, what all the scandals affecting the Catholic Church; at least the ad shows the real colors like it or not. "We should all love one another right?.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Atila the Hun

      yeah right, and women feminists are all lesbians... sure

      November 17, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Eric

      Come on, don't exaggerate, it's only 50% or so.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  13. joesense

    rubbish. must be a bunch of OWS twerps with their indie hippie crap, who made this. Utter rubbish. For once, i would side with the muslims at their outrage against this. Seeing your spiritual leaders mocked like this and portrayed like this is a serious matter. I I have never bought bennetton before, from now i doubt i ever will.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • julian

      plenty of the OWS supporters are faithful, and detest this as much as anybody, your comments are misguided

      November 17, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • tamarinds

      It's funny, because this is the type of person who would typically respond with "you don't see people doing this with MUSLIM leaders!!"

      November 17, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  14. AL

    I am not Muslim or Christian (I am Jewish). I think the ad was in poor taste considering you'd have to be a moron to not realize this would offend many people....not to forget that the two people pictured (as far as we know) are not gay – so this photo makes it look like they are...which is defamation (considering their jobs).
    Anyhow, good that they pulled it down. They should also fire the team that came up and published this campaign

    November 17, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • ObjectiveOpinion

      The pope is just trying to show his pedophile priest that there are other options than molesting the alter boys.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  15. Trystan

    Who is this hero? And why is it that fashion queens such as this are often seen with their hair in shambles? It looks as if he rolled out of bed into a wood chipper.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  16. Kerry Berger

    They pull the photo of the Pope kissing the Imam, because this Pope is a religious bigot who refuses to view other religions as equals. Why they pander to the Vatican is beyond me. The Vatican is just a religious corporation and should not have embassies across the globe. We need to keep religions out of public policy and state affairs. And corporations shouldn't wimp out due to a bunch of nosy, pesky, religious fanatics.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Trystan

      You're obviously jealous because it wasn't you in the photo.

      November 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • d

      Why single the pope out for this. Do you think that the Imam views other religions as equal to Islam? Actually, everyone (even the atheist or agnostic) has a religious view, a belief that their worldview is more correct than other views. If someone changes their mind or heart about that, they usually change their religion too.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  17. Jesus Christ God Almighty Savior of the Catholic Church

    Who says the picture is fake?

    November 16, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  18. Toro63

    The people at Benetton are a classic example of good intentions but idiotic execution.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm |


      November 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  19. Mike P

    Never bought Benneton before. After this, never will.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |


      November 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  20. Preachy

    It amazes me. I can't quite figure out if it is CNN that encourages hate with the way they write their articles or if the posters on CNN are the worlds biggest haters. Hmmmmmm.....

    November 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Preachy, what do you belive in?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
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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.