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. AIZEN

    there is a reason why BENETTON is called "united colors of bandes des cons"..get it? lol...only they, can pull such stupid pictures...lolz

    November 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  2. Amy Gonzales

    This is really tasteless. I don't see how this promotes tolerance or diminishes hate, but I guess they have a very narrow view of who is deserving of protection from hate.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • kso

      Yeah. Because the pope represents all things "moral". What a joke! cough! cough! sheltered!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Monk

      Sigh.....and to think we could have had an interesting ad.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Rick

      Yeah, this is soooo hateful.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • marsmotel

      Why don't you just go to church and pray for Benetton. Then it is all forgiven, right. Please open your mind and get a grip. It is creative.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  3. fuzzball

    Have these people sunk so low on the moral compass that this kind of ad is now even considered normal? I wonder what filth will be aired next time by these degenerates.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Reality

      Completely agree. And the sad part is, once you reference this being immoral and incomprehensible, out come all the atheists to verbally assault you for being a "bigot." Our society loves everything immoral and will attack you when you point out morality. They are hypocrites to the utmost degree.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • richunix


      Whats does his commnets have to do with "atheism" ....let me think NOTHING...Dude your a troll: Paint a sign (put a picture of jesus if it make you feel better) and write "I'm aTroll"...loser!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • kso

      Well then, Mr. REALITY, let's acknowledge the reality of the all the current cases of pedophilia and child abuse the pope has been responsible for covering up for years. Disgusting.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • mschelling


      November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • thesent

      Isa 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
      Isa 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
      Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
      Isa 6:11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

      November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • richunix

      @the sent:

      In the world of blind men, the one-eyed man shall be king! Oneday the world will awake and find religion for what is truly is: Fantasy.....

      November 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Laugh it up, fuzzball...

      So what if it is or is not "normal"? Since when do things have to be "normal?" I suppose you think that there should be "a single purpose, a single norm, a single morality," etc.? Furthermore, I suppose you think that it's not enough that we have a norm, but that "we conform to that norm!" Normal's overrated. Who are you or anyone else to say what is beautiful and what is ugly... (if any of this sounds like a quotation from a Twilight Zone episode, it's because it is...) Sure this may be in bad taste... but it's also funny as all-get-out. Pope's throughout history have been like the Wizard of Oz, hoping people will not pay any attention to the man blowing the alter boy(s) behind that curtain. As for Imam's, well I can't imagine they're much different, after all, they're human, yes?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • claybigsby

      thesent...you quote words written by man. congrats.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Rick

      How is this immoral, fuzzy?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |

    Only the photo is fake. Everything else is real. Just ask the children.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Yahia

      This is really very unproper thing to be showed on the first page of CNN!! if there is problems with some popes the Imam is not like that....it is very sad when there is no values to rule our lives and just anything goes.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • marsmotel

      To Yahia: That is called freedom you communist. Would you like to tell everyone what they can say, think or fell. If you do not like it, no one is forcing you to read the article.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • ARCEON

      Yahia, you missed the point. Let me spell it out for you: P E D O P H I L I A. Get it now?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Rick

      i have values on which to base my life. they just don't necessarily jibe with the proclamations of bronze age sheepherders

      November 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • ARCEON

      Nice one, Rick! As for me, I prefer the tablets from Silicon Valley or a South Korean warehouse over some stone tablets from a mountain.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  5. David J

    ROFLMAO!!! omg, this is too funny!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Yahia

      You just sick! have no values and no respect to any one....if Pope is like that the Imam is not.
      You guys just never mind anything!! you don't have values and measures to know right from wrong?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • richunix


      Would you feel better if the Pope was kissing Mohammad, I know I would.....Just hope the Pospe uses tongues........

      November 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • maira

      Yahia... the point is disrespect and you have already moved to segregation.... you may not like the Pope and all he stands for, that does not justify your sentence... however you have just committed the offense as the painter.....disregard for men of honor....

      November 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Rick

      Yahia: You claim to know that values of people you have never met. Nothing pompous about that, eh?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  6. despera

    If your company is losing money and relevance, do something outrageous to gain publicity. Yeah, that's the ticket.

    If you can show dis res pect to the po pe and other world leaders, why not show dis res pect to your own mothers. Show a photo of the mothers of the company's CEO and VPs, kis sing each other.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      I don't know why anyone would *want* to see that, but ok. I wouldn't have a problem with that.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. Ru

    Love infidel humor lol!! The muslim cleric has now tasted young boys

    November 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Yahia

      Just silly

      November 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    As little use as I have for the Pope, using a public figure in an advertisement is improper.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Yahia

      I can't beleive it!! there is still people who can tell good from bad and what can be said or done or not! there is still hope.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Rick

      Aren't public figures used in advertismements often?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  9. Kay

    All the people who are offended by this are being ridiculous. It's a doctored image of two men kissing.

    I like it!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Reality

      You're exactly what's wrong with our world today.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Yahia

      You're exactly what's wrong with our world today.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Mmm, no, Christianity and Islam (and Judaism and Hinduism) are huge parts of what's sick and wrong with our world.

      Thank god they're finally going the way of every other mythology mankind has dreamt up.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • ARCEON

      Right to the point, warmesTghost! Today's religion is tomorrow's myth..

      November 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  10. Ru

    The Catholics will now boycott Benetton and the Muslims will bomb a Benetton retail store. I love the ad and it should've stayed up. Maybe A Republican kissing Bin Ladin would've been clever as well

    November 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Yahia

      You love it!! is it making you feel complete? you are just sick people not knowing right from wrong and have no respect for anything in life....Yes sure there will be many many people very angry with this ruthless filth.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      "Ruthless filth"

      I love it. Compared to all the real filth that organized religion has spewed across the pages of history, this is just an amusing joke.

      Of course if you're that offended you could always go fly a plane into a building or bomb an abortion clinic. You guys are into that stuff.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  11. marsmotel

    Wow, I did not know that the Nazi Pope had such strong feeling for older men, it is usually little boys. He should be sharing a cell with Sandusky!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • mrmefco

      I am glad they included an Imam but I wish they would have put Mohammad in there instead. That's not helping tolerance, that picture will just fuel anger towards the Gay community, that's why they took it down. It would be great if they or someone else were to publish their own faces, then they would know what hate really is- instead of someone innocent being a victim of the anger that this picture produces.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • marsmotel

      Who is innocent in that picture? They are both crooks!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • mrmefco

      When I said "innocent" I didn't mean the people in the picture. I meant when some radical sees the picture, gets angry and lashes out. The Pope and the Imam are protected, but it will be the janitor or security guard or other employee(s) who get hurt, maybe killed.If I was working there, I would find another job.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • marsmotel

      I gotcha! That is a valid point.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  12. Alex Peter

    Why? There are so cute like kittens 🙂

    November 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • pius

      yeah man its true hahahaaaaaahahaaaa u've made ma day

      November 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  13. Silly..But Saved!

    REALLY BENNETON???!!! Who in your corporate family thought this was tasteful???? OMG!! Is your company run by a bunch of 20 year olds with no business sense?!!

    November 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Ru

      It's frontpage on a WHOLE LOT of news outlets. And the only thing distasteful here is the taste of children in the Muslim clerics mouth now. Ummm you're not very merketing saavy

      November 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Kay

    I want to know why my post keeps getting censored. There are no words in the them that an automated system would reject.

    Be honest and show yourself if you can't accept what i have to say.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • J.W

      Sorry. Post it again I won't block it this time.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Just let her post what she wants to! This is a free country right?! I mean I know you want to show off your fast reading skillz and being able to catch naughty words within words (like consTI.Tution) and for some reason you're totally good with letting others like myself get away with it if we toss in a period, but just let Kay post what she wants to post, PLEASE!

      November 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • J.W

      It should be going through now, unless I am involuntarily blocking posts now. Maybe now it is just a reflex.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Kay

      It really is strange that two of my posts were blocked given the words that are in some posts and the insults that are in others.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Kay

      I don't get why two of my posts were blocked given the words that are in some posts and the insults that are in others.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Chuckles

      the usual offenders are probably either ti.t, cu.m and va.g, I'm not sure if you're already aware but just go through them again and if there's a word like say, ti.tle.... your post will get blocked. Same for docu.ment or va.gue... ya dig?

      November 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Kay

      Chuckles, the content of those two posts were commentaries on the offensive nature of various actions of the Catholic church. There were no "bad" words, only honest ones.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Kay

      Oh well. Not being able to say it here won't stop me from spreading the word anyway.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • J.W

      I think the ones that get me are ar.se as in ar.senic, or ja.p and in ja.panese

      November 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Chuckles


      You're still not getting it, you can generally post whatever the hell you want on these boards, just put a period, space or dash wherever you have bad words. There's person actually reading your posts at lightspeed and making a decision to accept or reject it, it's a bot that only has a small list of words to automatically reject no matter how benign the content is.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Kay... some of the word fragments are tricky...

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Kay

      Thanks Chuckles and Helpful Hints. I do know that no one actually moderates the boards, but there were no words in my post that could even remotely be considered offensive. Taken as a whole the posts would probably have offended quite a few people, but that's because of my POV, not the individuals words used to express it. That's what has me puzzled.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Kay

      This just a test..


      November 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Kay


      I've been up too long.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Kay, It's possible that you have run across a new glitchy word. Maybe you could try posting it one paragraph at a time or something, so that it can be tracked down.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • MdawgMike

      I think the moderators are confusing you with the other Kay.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  15. petemg

    Sorry but since the day Obama was sworn in on the Koran and he said this was not a Christian nation, our whole world has become more immoral. Sure we had immoral things going on before, but this has gotten to increase at an astronomical rate. This must be a campaign against what Obama created–HATRED. Obama professes to be a Christian but his Muslim ideas are showing through.
    If we allow Muslim ideas to come into our society totally and completely, we will not have freedom of anything. Muslims will not kill if you convert totally and completely to Muslim ways. Atheists or however you believe will not be tolerated. You either convert or die. Obama is trying to cause problems between peoples and nations. It is underhanded way of causing problems of hate.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nah

      Tried way too hard.

      Troll fail.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • J.W

      How has he created hatred?

      November 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Silly..But Saved!

      OBAMA HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS PICTURE.....................STICK TO THE RELEVANCE OF THE AUTHOR'S INTENT!! Take your Obama hating moronic episode and post somewhere else.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Bluenoser

      Simple Googling would tell you that your fearmongering comment about Obama being sworn in on the Quran is not true: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Was_Barack_Obama_sworn_into_office_with_a_Qur'an

      And even if it was, so long as someone does their job properly, why does their religion matter whatsoever?

      November 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Really?

      You're a bloody idiot. You're probably some christian fundy, following Fox news. Obama goes to Catholic mass, you asshat. Immoral? You're got kills by the millions and you think 4 years with a democratic black president makes this country immoral? Do everyone a favor, kill yourself.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "since the day Obama was sworn in on the Koran"
      That did not happen.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Ru

      I read your first sentence and thought to myself " IDIOT REPUBLIKKKAN"

      November 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Nah

      really: "You're a bloody idiot. You're probably some christian fundy, following Fox news"

      You're a bloody idiot. You're probably a mouth breathing liberal, having no intelligence whatsoever.

      Why do we know this? Because you can't spot even the most obvious troll.

      Good job 🙂

      November 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • ccecee

      yes i agrree its all obamas fault!! everything hes the reason why this world is falling to pieces!!!!! its all HIS FAULT ALL OBAMAS FAULT OBAMA!!!!!! OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • richunix

      petemg: Your a troll, in fact lets hope you are not capable of breeding. Does your parole officer know your on his computer again.....what a loser.......

      November 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Reality

      +1 to Nah for recognizing that guy was a troll.

      The rest of you idiots have no intelligence whatsoever. Sad that this is what you choose to attack and try to pin conservatives or republicans on this, it's clearly a far left troll trying to stir up the pot.

      Libtards at their finest.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Belladonia

      Wow - what are you taking for your paranoia?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • J.W

      Well believe it or not, there are many people who still do think this. So how can you tell this particular person is just a troll and not one of the many people who would agree with what he said?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Reality

      @JW – Bc I can use common sense. I can also read a comment, look at its context and intent, and then using deduction that a basic ape has, it's fairly obvious that it's a troll posting to get reactions.

      Try to think about things in depth for once, I know you liberals don't like to, but just occupying spaces (OWS) and spouting non sensical rhetoric is the way of a fool.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Nah

      reality: "The rest of you idiots have no intelligence whatsoever. Sad that this is what you choose to attack and try to pin conservatives or republicans on this, it's clearly a far left troll trying to stir up the pot."

      Thank you, thank you 🙂

      November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Drew Gardner

    Goodness me!

    I did not know Benetton was still in business

    November 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jezmundberserker

      You should try traveling abroad more often.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  17. BBoy705

    What, is the Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb too old for the Pope?

    November 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • ARCEON

      No. The pope just went: "Come here and let me taste that little boy, too."

      November 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  18. popcorn

    NEW WORLD ORDER.... Obama Kissed Chinese President. Everyone who is in secret meeting G20. They kissed. Even North Korean Kim was there. They know something about 2012 and collapse of economy.

    They said "GOOD BYE".

    November 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  19. Papal Pucker

    I thought he was kissing Tom Donohue. You know that photo exists.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  20. Jack Dyer

    Congratulations to the Pope. At least it wasn't a child for a change.

    November 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • X

      Very well said Jack xD.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Belladonia

      I get your point about the Catholic church and their priests who've been dishonorable and down right disgusting, but, why must you attack the pope? Was he charged with child molestation? I don't hate people like you, but, I do hate your ugliness and stupidity.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Joseph Ratzinger is a disgusting human being directly responsible for lying to millions of Africans about the efficacy of condoms in the battle against AIDS, the head of a distinctly misogynistic cult of geriatric pederasts, and as a bishop reaffirmed the sanct-ity of the church's doctrine not to disclose incidences of clergical abuse against young children.

      Anyone sticking up for this man is either stupid, insane or hopelessly brainwashed.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • ARCEON

      Exactly my point with my other comment. Thanks, Jack!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:53 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.