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. Mortran

    It seems that the 'culture of hatred' has prevailed.
    The world is fed up with that culture of appeasement.

    November 17, 2011 at 6:27 am |
    • tallulah13

      Or perhaps a company that has a history of controversial ad campaigns has created another one.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  2. hind

    benetton is cheap, sick and pathetic

    November 17, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • John

      It is your ignorance that is so pathetic. You are not intelligent enough to see the underlying meaning.

      November 17, 2011 at 6:38 am |
    • John Richardson

      The underlying meaning of course being that Benetton wants to use shock to get you to spend $$$ in their stores. It's SO edifying.

      November 17, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  3. Yildiz

    Consistently over the years, Benetton has used highly politically incorrect, shocking and inappropriate advertising. This old gimmick has worn off and is just plain offensive. It's like they can't sell their clothes and accessories on their own merits anymore so they have to resort to these gimmicks. If they want to bank on images of peace and harmony, there are many ways to do so without being scandalous. Move on, Benetton. It's all just so boring now.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:32 am |
    • tallulah13

      You are probably much older than the demographic they are trying to reach.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  4. malmn

    As if Benetton did this to stop "the culture of hatred". They did this for shock value so that they can sell more clothes. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  5. Chilkoor

    This is simply 'SICK'. the ad agency has proved itself to be a very cheap agency. (Assuming that this ad has been published widely.. the agency must be sued for being abusing and base!)

    November 17, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • Nikki


      November 17, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  6. wawawa

    how cute, put a rabbi in there and youll have a holy threeesome!

    November 17, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • tallulah13

      Then they can walk into a bar.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  7. jacques lepin

    This is wrong, i think these gay advocate groups really have no clue of how to get their message of diversity across to those who may not necessarily be receptive, this is like making a poster in the 1960's advocating diversity of a black man with a large penis ejaculating on a white woman's face. I'm certain this cost them much more than it gained in terms of public relations, honestly it would more likely end up in causing more bullying or physical harm to gays than acceptance.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:46 am |
  8. toadears

    smack, slurp.....too much garlic, Bennie

    November 17, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  9. toadears

    It's about money. My god, you people take yourselves way too seriously. They did this to stir up an outcry, controversy, get free publicity and sell their very boring clothing.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  10. toadears

    stop censoring my dammed posts, CNN fascists.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • Ah....wait just a second

      Wake up idiot. There are no censors. It's an automated word filter which YOU are too fucking stupid to figure out.

      November 17, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  11. John Richardson

    It's funny to see who ends up shilling for the sort of self-serving corporate toads that come up with campaigns like this.

    November 17, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • toadears

      exactly right

      November 17, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  12. toadears

    gross. old men lip locked. ew. just..........ew

    November 17, 2011 at 3:55 am |
  13. Amira

    The message has good intentions- but Benetton and their marketing company should have seen this coming. Showing them hugging or kissing on the cheek would have lead to a more successful campaign. Now half the world is laughing and the other half is fuming... Ironically, their UNHATE campaign now just directed many people's hate to Benetton.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Andre` Martell

      Of course they saw it coming and wanted the free publicity. An Italian company using images of a pope in this matter didn't see this coming? This is exactly the reaction they were looking for.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • asdasd


      November 17, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • asdasd

      asdasdasd asdff sdf dsafasdf dgegrg rg fdg dfgfdgdfg

      dfgdfg dfgdfg


      dfsgsdfggsg fdg fsg sdf gfdsgdfsgs dfg sfdg

      November 17, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  14. Thartea

    Wow, I love it, i love it. Peace in the name or religion, but without God.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  15. Mater Dei

    At least it's better than abusing kids.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  16. Daniel

    They should have stood behind their advertisment and run it, but I imagine the Vatican was sending their legbreakers over to complain.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  17. pfoneill

    That's not the pope; it's Prince Charles. He posed for the pictures, according to his valet.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:08 am |
  18. SFDR

    As if all these negative posters have ever shopped at Benetton. Get over yourselves – the message is clear and concise. This company has always promoted Diversity – if you have ever seen any of their previous ads you'd know. Promoting harmony between obvious cultural, religious and political ideologies (look it up) is commendable. Benetton should definitely have kept the ads going – they certainly have started a conversation. Brilliant, really.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • toadears

      PC zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz you snots are always so bloody boring in your self, I did say SELF righteousness. Gross. Two old fat men with saggy jowls and face fur, vomit. If it was two old fat women with saggy jowls and face fur, just as gross, if not grosser.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • toadears

      Oh and I have shopped there. I can understand them trying to pump up that clothing line with some yellow journalism, which is all it is. A brilliant ad campaign would have required slightly more intelligence than just grossing everybody out with sensationalism. Very American of them, I must say.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • John Richardson

      Showing two people doing something they in fact would never do has nothing to do with promoting diversity and harmony. It's an intentionally spiteful act meant to ridicule and demean those that people like those at Benetton feel contempt for. Show two guys who actually want to kiss each other doing so and let them be from different groups who often don't get along and I'll happily applaud the courageous stand. This has nothing to do with anything like that and it is sheer self-serving BS to suggest that it does.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:04 am |
    • John Richardson

      Oh, and let's not forget that the REAL message goes one layer deeper: "If you too feel the sort of contempt we do (or at least pretend we do) for the people depicted, express your weaselly little pseudo-revolutionary self by buying a bunch of overpriced junk from us!"

      And when people do, the corporate toads at Benetton get to snicker all the way to the bank.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  19. Elias

    Pope says Imam to old.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  20. Herby Sagues

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

    They omitted saying "... and surprised ...".

    But catholics are right to be mad at this. The Pope only kisses young children.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:00 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
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.