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. Dutch Cartoon Fan

    That company is so juvenile.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  2. piollet

    Remember the Benetton ads featuring a white person holding hands with a black person? Shocking. That's what Benetton aspires to - shocking ads = attention = mo money and mo money. It's an ad campaign. They wouldn't do it if it didn't help sell stuff. No need to get your knickers in a twist about it.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  3. Smuz

    You know what this picture doesn't make me want to do? Run off and blow up something to show how angry I am. 😉

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

      Well, some priests are gay and Imams in the backward areas too so I see the connection here.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. Arun

    This is CNN agenda to publish this post.......Why they should post the picture, which is already offensive...

    November 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • errca

      yah offensive to YOU
      i love it!

      November 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • POW

      The world ran out of patience and humanity for fellow humans. Any ignorant act is cheered on CNN. End of civilized era has come.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      When exactly was "the civilized period"?
      The last time humanity all came together to work towards a common goal, God desrtoyed their work and deliberatly caused great confusion and division.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm sure God planned the end to be signaled (or trumpeted) by an advertisement by a clothing company.
      'It shall come as a thief in the night... and you shall save 50% if you buy two...'

      November 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  5. alex

    my guess is a pic of all the priests with the little boys bent over in front of them, that this clown and prior popes all turned their back on REPORTING IT AND keeping the law from prosecuting them, would have been better? that whole religion has a foot into hell from the dawn of its existance. So let the ad exists until they turn over every last one of thier criminals.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nah

      Right. So the Catholic church has done the patently wrong thing by not reporting or (seemingly) taking care of pedophilia quickly and effectively. Therefore false light ads are permissible.

      Logic isn't your strong point, is it?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  6. Mel

    Bennetton, do the math... there are over a billion and half Catholics and a billion Muslims, this doesn't warm the heart of either group. You could have found a real picture of the Pope kissing a Muslim cleric on the cheek, no prob. Purity of the heart is a higher value to Christians and this just shows how cheap and nasty your values are.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Purity of the heart is a higher value to Christians and this just shows how cheap and nasty your values are."

      lol ooook. Christians hate more than alot of people i know. Purity of heart according to the brainwashed. bhahahahaha.

      And BTW, just cuz there are 2.5B people supposedly offended, doesn't mean the rest of the 4.5B people living in the world are too.

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

      Media loves to propagate hatred cause their rating gets better. People follow blindly.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Tarkin

    If you want to UNHATE, start by unhating Jesus.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • claybigsby

      you cant "unhate" a person who is dead and has been for thousands of years.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Nah

      clay: "you cant "unhate" a person who is dead and has been for thousands of years."

      First, it's nice that you admit the historical figure "Jesus" probably existed.

      Second, there's no qualitative difference hating someone who is alive and someone who is dead because the "hate" comes from you, not them. Hence, whether Jesus has been dead for thousands of years has no bearing on whether or not you can hate him or "un"-hate him.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • claybigsby

      sure it does, nah. How am i supposed to hate or unhate someone if I never knew them in the first place?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Nah, for example...you could be the coolest cat on this blog or the biggest a...ss... I do not know you at all, so how can I hate you or like you? Even crazy posters on this blog who say crazy stuff, I cannot hate. I can disagree with what they say but I do not hate them. I can't make assumptions based on what I don't know. Now you will probably say that I would "Know" Jesus if I read the bible...the problem with this argument is that, one, I have read the bible and two, the people who wrote the bible never knew Jesus themselves. Yes I believe that a man named Jesus, not the son of god, could have existed, however there have been thousands of people named Jesus over human history.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  8. claybigsby

    @yahia: ".Yes sure there will be many many people very angry with this ruthless filth."

    Ruthless Filth? the only filth i see are the two people in the ad and the "morals" they represent....not the action they are pictured doing.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  9. lynn

    where do you get the video , leader on leader?

    November 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  10. teepee

    this whole world is disturbed...yall need Jesus Christ...Hell is expanding to accomdate you all...

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

      You seem to have an inside knowledge about Hell. You must have been there.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Chris

      What if Jesus was just the David Copperfield of his time? Then what would you do?

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

      scary! you should take your fear mongering to elementary schools...it works better on kids.

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

      so is the size of a potato chip......come to think of it..The world "Hell" was from the word "Hades"...the plot thickens....as the bible was written by the greeks....a secret belief in ZEUS!!!!!

      November 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • errca

      hell is expanding to accommodate you too! don't judge save it for your "God"

      November 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  11. Gbegbegbe

    No matter what you do on Planet Earth,be it for a good intention or bad,you are bound to criticised or defamed by some who are just unhappy with their own lives.

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

      Best comment I have read so far....thanks

      November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  12. EVN

    Benneton has no intention other than to draw attention to itself and the purported explanation is corporate double speak.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  13. Chris

    IIt was suppose to be a 10 year old boy kissing the pope, but then this whole Sandusky thing broke loose and they decided to change it to something less provocative.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  14. AIZEN

    i didnt even know benetton still existed and people still bought their low quality clothes...lol...oh well now they have the attention they wanted, how come cnn is not showing the one with obama and hugo chavez?

    November 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Byrd

    The Vatican probably wouldn't have objected at all if the Pope were kissing a young boy instead of a Muslim cleric.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Brian

      Ouch! =)

      November 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  16. mdn

    Bennetton has done an excellent job of offending nearly all people. The only ones not offended are the perverts and the sickos who work at and sell Bennetton. This should not be tolerated. People should BOYCOTT BENNETTON.

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

      Nearly all, or just one percent? The other 99% of us couldn't care less, though it would have been far more appropriate had they been shown kissing each other's derriere.

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

      "though it would have been far more appropriate had they been shown kissing each other's derriere."

      or kissing and fondling little boys...that would work too.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Pat

      mdn-Couldn't agree with you more. Their clothes have been " out" for years. Maybe they are thinking this extremely shocking ad campaign will bring on hordes of customers. I think people should boycott them. Ultimate revenge is to hurt their bottom line.

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

      do people have time to boycott things anymore?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  17. Enrico

    You are brilliant Benetton! 🙂

    November 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  18. lynn

    makes me hot in a distubing sort of way.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  19. DISMAS

    Why dont you use your time and skills to create a positive thing in the world

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

      what makes you think they haven't?

      November 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Marina

      What makes us think they haven't? Watching what they have done over the years – that's what.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  20. kazım

    ateist Benetton (ensest monkeys) for ................. everything is okey "normal"

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

      I'm assuming the words you were looking for are "atheist", "incest" and "okay".

      I don't entirely understand your point but I assume you're offended?


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


      November 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
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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.