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. Kay

    Said yesterday that I was going to make a t-shirt out of the image and now I have one. It was that quick.

    November 17, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  2. Rachy007

    Why would they think people WOULDN'T get offended? It might be different if they weren't frenching...

    November 17, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  3. WDinDallas

    I bet the ad had Obama kissing Jintao's butt.

    November 17, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  4. Kweso

    And the Pope said to the Imam: "Let me teach you to kiss the Christian way." Now, there!

    November 17, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  5. Catholic Follower

    This is very disheartening to the catholic faith and therefore it will cause great controversy

    November 17, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • heebiejeebie

      If you want a liberal hedonism benneton to listen you, you must take the muslim suggestion for threaten the swift retribution with all a jihad and fatwa agression, fire and destruction and annihilation for the infidel

      November 17, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  6. Jagged

    Those pictures are so gay.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  7. heebiejeebie

    I think the advertisement reflect the appeasement of radical muslim. I think more appropriate symbolic would be have photo of a pope kiss a hinder parts of mulim leader for represent fearful appeasement of radical islam element

    November 17, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  8. ghaleb


    November 17, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  9. richunix

    I always thought the Pope was gay...You go for it Pope Benedict XVI! Of course I wonder does he use "tongues"?

    November 17, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  10. Plug1

    Only girl, boys think of dumb stuff like that!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  11. Plug1

    They wouldn't have put a "jew", in that picture! .

    November 17, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  12. ART

    Who's the top

    November 17, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  13. thomas mc

    Of course the Vatican objects. Hate is the only thing the Pedophile Church has left to offer.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Charlie

      You sound pretty hateful yourself. Check yourself, bro.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Gort01

      I love this ad...........the catholic church and its believers deserve allthe bad things that will happen to them, they have earned it. The church goers continue to give money to an organization that isnt a church at all, its a brothel for pedophiles....nothing more ...nothing less.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  14. blf83

    I think the whole idea is great – provocative, yes, and with a genuine message. Art has long been controversial, but containing truths.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • John Richardson

      Yeah, art. It's a marketing campaign and you are the mark.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Freud Dude

      yes, yes... the ancient greeks made beautiful marble likenesses and they were never clothed... perhaps they had underlieing issues about there mother!

      November 17, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Tom in Dallas

      However, using someone's likeness without permission violates privacy, copyright and trademark laws in many countries.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Jason

      How on earth could this be a great idea? I am neither Catholic, nor a Muslim, but no straight person wants to see to men kissing. That makes the stomach turn. This idea goes violently against the beliefs of both of the religions that these two men represent.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Freud Dude

      @tom, not if that person is a public figure, then there likeness can be used how ever you want.... and the people of ancient Greece were creating gods from stone and inmovible pictures of god-like athletes. That is art for the ages, this is art for now. Now wheres my pipe...

      November 17, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • NotBuyingIt

      You would probably be a happier person if you just got over your irrational h0m0phobia...
      I'm straight, never kissed a guy, never intend to do so. That being said, this picture elicits no response from me one way or another. In fact, the idea that some people can be disgusted by it is fairly amusing!

      November 17, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • NoLove InHisHeart

      Yes Jason, with your limited but prejudiced viewpoint, we can assume that you would rather see them killing or maiming each other instead!

      November 17, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  15. Abraham Lincoln

    Fourscore and...
    [looks at his pocket watch]
    seven minutes ago... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!

    November 17, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  16. Elizabeth Godinez

    benetton is this your only brand of creativity? it seems you have a pattern, to attract attention, anything goes?

    we should not patronize this mentality.

    November 17, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • GodPot

      Christians, is this your only brand of creativity? it seems you have a pattern, to attract attention, any hate goes?

      we should not patronize this mentality.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  17. Hashim

    For more on this read novel - king of Bat'ha

    November 17, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Freud Dude

      You're the son of the savior of mankind, who then later became a drunkard and town joke... how does that make you feel? I understand you were not an only child...did that play a big part in your childhood? Tell me about your mother?

      November 17, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • ohnooo

      Freud Dude's sarcastic reply prompted me to look for this book.. placed an order at Amazon. Thanks Hashim and Freud..

      November 17, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • jason

      wow, that book does sound good. thanks.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    Gay or straight, old or young, black or white, muslim or catholic – ugly old people aren't fun to look at.

    November 17, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  19. Reality

    Yucky Muck!!!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Freud Dude

      You seem to be suffering from a mild form of hysteria.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Realityof theSituation

      No Freud Dude, the Reality of the situation is that they were just looking in the mirror!

      November 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  20. Name (required)

    Benetton got it all wrong. That dude is WAYYYYYYY too old for the pope to be interested in romantically.

    November 17, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • phoodphite

      I think of it the other way around.. some cradle robbin goin on there.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • TonyZ


      November 17, 2011 at 10:09 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.