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. ashok

    such lows of seeking attention, what the hell were these guys thinking??????Absolute gross stuff.........unpardonable. These guys should be prosecuted and put behind bars- right place to show-off these cult creativity.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  2. Cogito

    As an adman, I think this is a brilliant campaign and a super message. As world leaders, they are after all, fair game. Just a shame that Benetton caved to the pressure of hatred, which undermines the entire message.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • ashok

      adam and STEVE?? guess you belong to that category....lol

      November 17, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  3. Mike D

    I'm an atheist and I find the ad distasteful.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  4. Fonseka

    How about Zakozy sucking Gadaffi's dic ?

    November 17, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  5. Dikran

    I say burn down shops that are Benetton. That will send a clear message of UNhatred

    November 17, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • John Richardson

      The proper antidote for bad speech is good speech, not criminality. Got that?

      November 17, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  6. FairnSquare

    Ahh, Benneton...good old tricks eh? Any way to get the attention is fair....
    It would be even better if they both were naked in the shower no?......

    You went too far to be a good taste marketing.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  7. GBec

    What is this world coming to!?!?!?! Why would someone do something to outrageous!!! I am deeply offended by this picture!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  8. FunkyMonkey7

    I think the photos do a good job in the bringing people together in condemnation of the fake photos

    November 17, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  9. Rachel

    Absolutely DISGUSTING. This is one of the most pathetic moves I have ever seen in advertising.

    Those who did this imaging should be issuing a MASSIVE APOLOGY, not only to the Pope but to the general public.


    November 17, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • karol

      I like it very much.That picture is wonderful.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  10. The rabbi

    This photo is cropped!!! I was there too, smoking two tiny cigars down below. What a night that was!

    November 17, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  11. jesse

    This is hilarious. Not only do people throw a hissy fit about an openly doctored photo, but one of the men in the photo is directly responsible for more ruined lives in the Catholic church than what went to my high school before I graduated. No sense of irony what so ever?

    November 17, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  12. Free speech

    Love these Ads. Awesome work Benetton

    November 17, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  13. Free speech

    What a wonderful way to bring people together. Finally a company breaking hypocritical boundaries. No more double standards. Free speech rules.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • Linda

      Barf, gag, barfffffff.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Brandy

      Too many socialists. Too much time. This ad is an abomination.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • ashok

      free speech....maybe you could join the twosome in the pics!

      November 17, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  14. Colin J

    This is ridiculous. The fact that they have to doctor these photos in order for them to exist proves that they are advocating a sentiment that isn't all that real.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      ...except in the hearts of the Pope and Imam!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • ThinkForYourself


      That was kind of the point that there exists division, hatred, and intolerance among us. Why can't we all get along?

      (Though the real point was shock value to increase revenue)

      November 17, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  15. CT

    I guess Benetton has decided it's easier to deliberately create an offensive image, then claim they had NO IDEA it might offend some, rather than having a product that is worth purchasing. Even bad publicity is publicity and it appears that is the only kind this joke of a company cares about since you never hear about their product anymore - just about their retarded advertising.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      C'mon, you know it's hot.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  16. Free speech

    Benetton should get noble peace prize. Excellent idea.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • Tia

      Why, because the ad gave you a hard on?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  17. marla neusel

    Oh JEESH! Will you PLEASE let me direct your Marketing and Advertising Department Benetton? Whoever made this decision needs to be fired! They couldn't see how this would be offensive and conflicting? Give me a break!

    November 17, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      No Google access at your place, punkin'?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  18. Free speech

    This is free speech. I love these ads. Good job Benetton.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • Tia

      Yet if they created an image of the Imam kissing a pig you'd probably be whining all over the internet about being offended.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @Tia – wait, what? That's *not* a pig? Well, sht, no way it's kosher in any case.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • phoodphite2

      @Tia No that would be bestiality. This is just a little cradle robbin.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  19. dave

    i wish if there is more 11/9 in USA 🙂

    November 17, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • phoodphite2

      Well wish away, but that day was long gone – in the USA and everywhere else – over a week ago now. You need to catch up and get movin.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  20. vcltn72

    What a JOKE of an ad. TRASH! will be TRASH! take your photoshop and photoshops you minds, and your ASSES!!

    November 17, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • phoodphite2

      Well I might agree that it is trash, but whose minds are you saying should be photoshopped? and whose asses, for crying out loud?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:25 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.