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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. sumday

    combat the culture of hatred in all its forms- so we shouldn't hate the child molester or the rapist or the murder how about the corruption of government and religion? Sometimes hate is justified and needed otherwise you will embrace every evil and vile thing under the sun.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • 11:11

      Hate is a legitimate human emotion. To deny it is to deny one humanity.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Marcia

    I think a hand shake would be more appropriate!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • nown

      ... not if they are going to bed after this.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  3. HAPPYGOLUCKY

    In my opinion, that's gross. But just because you think differently doesn't make your opinion right, it just makes it your opinion.
    Ewww.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jim

      But you looked, didn't you? I bet you even snuck a second peek!

      November 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Rick

      "But just because you think differently doesn't make your opinion right"

      Same to all posters, including myself

      November 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  4. steelerguin

    I guess this ad would be OK if Benetton sold pope and imam clothes, but it doesn't make me want to buy a sweater.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  5. Jim

    As much as I find all this humorous, I have to admit I don't what the ad compaign has to do with selling clothes.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Jim

      should be "I don't know what". Typing too fast.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Mary

    Boy they sure have idiots in the marketing office at that company!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Hmmmm, create a marketing campaign that will gain national attention and highlight the hate of prejudice and start dialogue on how to "unhate" and what not....... yeah, looks like they totally failed......

      November 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  7. sortakinda

    How about a picture of Bennetton going out of business? It is amazing how idiocy gets so many opportunities to reveal itself.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Rick

      No kidding. And you got leaders of those idiocies kissing here, too!

      November 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  8. austin-inyang

    Stop provoking intolerant muslims with childish expressions like this. Innocents are dying for this.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • claybigsby

      so what you are saying is give up our first amendment rights because Muslims are killing people. Well, I for one will not be doing that. Muslims can lick my taint.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • conrad

      Then their intolerance wins ...

      I like the ads, they just need to be a little less 'romantic' seeming so it's clear they are about love among mankind and not about seksual desire.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Rick

      As opposed to, say, provoking intolerant Christians?

      November 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  9. Lady Bōner

    It's laughable that an ad campaign meant to break through the hate just inspired more.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jim

      I don't think it inspires more hatred. Instead, I think it brings existing hatred people have to the surface for all to see.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  10. austin-inyang

    Please dont show this picture to Nigerians! In my religiously sensitive country, some innocent person is sure to die for this – never having seen this picture. Just because some fanatic imam told his ignorant followers about it. Pls for the sake of us Nigerians, westerners shld practice safe self-expression. Yesterday it was the Danish cartoons, today it is this!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jim

      How about the Nigerians just join the 21st century instead?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  11. palintwit

    How about Ann Coulter doing Dick Cheney with a strap-on?

    November 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jim

      No. . . no. . . no. . . that is conservative on conservative. The idea is to offend two groups that are normally in opposition to each other thereby demonstrating their commonality. Now, Dick Cheney kissing Michelle Obama would be more consistent with the ad theme.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • palintwit

      Jim... I stand corrected.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Lady Bōner

      Nonsense...Palin on Pelosi

      November 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • James

      That's hilarious !

      November 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  12. Jose

    Keep in mind the Ad's have a gay perspective.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • nown

      Really, I'm not seeing it.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  13. BubbaJoeBob

    What a sick jacka$$.
    I hope all parties that have been portrayed in these altered fotos sue the SOB.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  14. Not me

    How about Rush Limbaugh kissing Rosie O'Donnell? The possibilities to offend are endless . . .

    November 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  15. POW

    I want the minors not to be exploited by the older perverts, hmmm let me make a poster with a old guy doing a minor.... Good way to communicate my message...yeah... and it will be fun to watch

    November 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  16. Not me

    The one I want to see is George Bush kissing Osama bin Laden.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  17. dohui

    They are going too far.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • nown

      Don't worry I'm sure they have cond.oms.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @nown
      The Pope doesn't use con.doms, silly!

      November 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Jim

      Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss (with apologies to Freud)

      November 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • nown

      D'oh!

      The rythim method?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • nown

      Yes, I got no rhythm.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  18. Mike jones

    Their next ad is to show two naked men touching their penises together or a little boy playing with an adult man's penis. Benetton is like OWS, an extreme liberal, anti-moral, leftist company that is promoting anything bad to mankind.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • o

      Next up, a photograph of you kissing your father.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • palintwit

      How about some photos of you demonstrating buttplugs ?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Not me

      "Their next ad is to show two naked men touching their penises together or a little boy playing with an adult man's penis." . . . something tells me you got a little excited when typing this. It is not an ad I want to see, but hey if "floats your boat" . . .

      November 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Isabel

      You really think a kiss is something bad?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Steve

      More humorless moralizing from the right. Thanks, Mike. I need it like most need their morning cup of joe — spiked with strychnine. It's meant to sell clothes, but like any good ad campaign, it pushes the envelope, is kind of funny, gets people talking and, if they're really lucky, gets people to think of more than just fashion. If that happens, God (in whatever form) bless Bennetton.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • palintwit

      Not me... he's getting off reading your reply !

      November 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Nah

      steve: "More humorless moralizing from the right. Thanks, Mike. I need it like most need their morning cup of joe"

      It's sad how easily trolled CNN readers are.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Ohhhh Poe's Law...

      Making trolls indistinguishable from religious morons since 2005. The country bumpkin name could indicate either one...argh. You've confounded me sir. Well played.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Woops I was thinking of BubbaJoeBob up there. Either way, invocation of Poe's Law still stands. In both cases.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Steve

      I've been had by a satirist posing as an extremist? Oh horrors! Either way, I either torqued off the real things out there or pleased the Poe folk. Not a bad day's work.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • conrad

      I've not yet figured out what a troll is. I know what it is in fairy tales, Shrek etc..

      But is it just someone who presents an extreme opinion or one that the reader doesn't agree with?

      November 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  19. Cat MacLeod

    Those of us who don't talk to invisible men in the sky just see this as a creepy picture....Santa told me to say this or no presents this year.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Nah

      Okay.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Tyrone Hogglegg

      Wow...Cat....you are just too cool.....

      November 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Jason

    HUEHUEHUEHUE!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:09 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.