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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. PIB

    this is sick... United colors is g a y. Not everyone wants to see two men kissing.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      What? Really? Glad you spoke up PIB I was confused.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Vince

      I do.. .i think it's super hot!

      November 17, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • But ThenAgain

      What nobody wants to see is the straight sickos slobbering on each other more than half naked on prime time television when kids can be watching. Now, THAT'S what is really sick!!

      November 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  2. Muhamed

    How dare they Insult Islam!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Peter

      All of Islam is insulting!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • maria

      Do you work for Benetton?

      November 17, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Vince

      islams are gay... you should be enjoying this.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  3. Disgusted

    They got the attention they wanted as the company is failing....Benetton who???? Get your message across with a handshake...this is disgusting.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      I think you mean a "special" handshake, right?

      November 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  4. *frank*

    "This is not art its disrespectful, its like showing a brother having anals with his sister! is that art too?"
    Yes. Yes, it is. 🙂

    November 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Wait, his sister has two butt holes? Yes, then that would be art. Just one butt hole, that's just gross.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  5. scranton

    "We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all it's forms"? So they start out their campaign with some hatred and deceit of their own.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  6. Occupy Belief Blog

    I want to see an ad with Jesus kissing Mohommed.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      with tongue.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Peter

      Jesus would know that Muslims are swine!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Freygunnr

      Ahhhh, I was gonna post that!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Vince

      69

      November 17, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  7. Sven

    So you all think it is isn't bigotry to not respect how the two largest and most conservative religious groups in the world are insulted by this add? Psssst. Your hypocrisy is showing.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      I think it isn't bigotry.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  8. scootser

    The real fakeitude of this photo only adds to the truthiosity of its message–the Pope is hot. He's a PILF.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      PILF – lol

      November 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Mike

      PILF... i'm still laughing at that!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • toadears

      hahhahaa

      November 17, 2011 at 4:36 am |
  9. ratickle

    Benetton is a trash company. Always was. Always will be.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Vince

      Just like your mama...

      Common. this country allows freedom on speech... give it up guy

      November 17, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  10. bill

    it's a good thing they weren't trying to make a similar point about those asskissing republicans in washington. that picture would have been some sight.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  11. Fr33th1nk3r

    Should anybody be surprised that a photo (whether real or faked) showing two world leaders exchanging the most universal show of affection/kindness/compassion known to humanity offends the religious? How is that disrespectful? Aren't religious people the ones always prattling on and on about how mercy, compassion, and forgiveness are divine? Why are non-religious people always such a better representation of religious principles than the people who supposedly follow these philosophies? Religion is a cancer– it was once a useful tool for keeping the slobbering masses in check, but it has outgrown its usefulness and is now a harmful thing for society– like a favorite childhood blanket we are reluctant to be rid of even at the age of 34.....

    November 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Josh

      Not only is this "free thinking" the same tired tripe put out by thousands of other athiests, your initial sentence suggesting that Benetton is being genuine with a message of love and respect is hypocritical at best and ignorant at worst.

      November 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • BubbaJoeBob

      I am sure you like kissing other guys.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  12. manuel da mota

    great campaign. shame they took it out. its all about love and peace. we are all trired of conflict, tensions, conflict and hypocracy.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  13. Drew

    Benetton is a failed company looking for any attention it can get.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Vince

      @Drew Your mama is a fail person giving birth to a stupid person like you. HAHA I am laughing at your stupid retarded face

      November 17, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • BubbaJoeBob

      Vince.
      could you ramble on a little more.
      your funny.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  14. ivan

    Mom? Dad?

    November 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Vince

      yea? you called?

      November 17, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  15. Seth

    smart ad campaign. the controversy gives them more buzz than the original ad did.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  16. Cynical Optimist

    Awww did the little Vatican get offended???

    November 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  17. horsesmouth

    I really only have one thing to say about this – hahahahahahahaahahahahaahahahahaahahahahahaha. Ha.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  18. Red Pison

    So much truth in these fake pictures.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • blf83

      Well said.

      November 17, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  19. St Peter

    Good God man! I wasn't invited to the wedding.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Jesus

      It all started with that ring kissing routine

      November 17, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  20. Mit

    I'm not gonna lie. That ad is hilarious...

    November 16, 2011 at 5:39 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.