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. Reality

    Yucky, yucky, yucky!!!

    November 18, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  2. TL

    Excellent analogy

    @Nah "Much less, if you're going to designate some subset of people as a "group", pick out the bad ones among them and then call the entire group "bad", then all Germans will be Nazis. All Americans are responsible for dropping the atom bomb. All liberals are responsible for Joseph Stacks. All Muslims are responsible for 9/11."

    See how that works?

    November 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  3. The Voice of Reason...NOT!

    I just have one word to describe this ad campaign...YUCK!!! Does it make me want to run right out and shop at their clothing stores? Nope...Not Really! Satire may be legal but sometimes it's just plain stupid. I guess the only thing worse they could have done would be an image of Jesus smooching it up with Mohamed or god forbid.... Allah. Then we'd have open holy war on all their shops!

    November 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  4. zack

    I Kissed The Pope And I Liked It http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfrJP5_lHlQ

    November 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  5. You are a Monkey

    To aIl atheists?

    Why is it ok to verbally attack, falsely ridicule, and act condescending towards Christians when you all claim that is what you are against?

    Me thinks atheists are hypocrites.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Please refer to my reply a few comments down.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      You are a monkey...what is" falsely ridicule" ? and why do you think that any religion is exempt from it?

      November 18, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  6. Jane Doe

    somebody can get kill for this kind of ads...disrespectful!

    November 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  7. Not All Docs Play Golf

    The photo would only be believable if the Pope was kissing an altar boy.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Reality

      Soooo clever. Seriously, you are so clever and smart. Never heard of that one before. I'm guessing you're a comedian right?

      I'd love to heard your act. I bet your jokes are sooo clever and original.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • The Voice of Reason...NOT!

      Or...A college football coach!

      November 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  8. palintwit

    I for one would like to see the Palin family making commercials for television.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Reality

    To all atheists?

    Why is it ok to verbally attack, falsely ridicule, and act condescending towards Christians when you all claim that is what you are against?

    Me thinks atheists are hypocrites.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Probably because theists have spent the last 2,000 years (at least) making the world a worse place for everyone.

      Ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule.

      Militant Christian: bombs abortion clinic
      Militant Muslim: suicide bombs civilians
      Militant Atheist: makes fun of you on the interwebz

      poor little xian

      November 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Marih

    What idiots dreamed up this ad? I can think of sooo many other images that would have been appropriate and non-offensive and I didn't spend 4 years in college and countless thousands of dollars on an apparently useless education in Marketing.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • the samaritans

      i,m a catholic this is disrespectful this is the pope his holiness kissing with the imam this is a joke benetton what it is your mind are you insane....

      November 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  11. Kevin O.

    For a moment I thought I was looking at a clip from "Lemon Party".

    November 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  12. Krystal

    I think these ads are disrespectful of our world leaders. Im sure they could come up with something else.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Rick

      What makes you think these world leaders are deserving of respect?

      November 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hmm. ..... Not like s Nobel Peace prize winner who has gone on a drone weapon strikes jamboree.

      Are there any world leaders that are respected by everyone?

      November 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Krystal..they are not world leaders.. they are simply leaders of folks who have been born into their religion.

      November 18, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>". they are simply leaders of folks who have been born into their religion."

      Do not forget about those that join the Faith. People convert all the time. Both new Muslims and new Catholics. 🙂

      November 18, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  13. c2star

    ummmmm what is this pic actually talk's about ??:P i mean what the .......?

    November 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  14. ARCEON

    Hey now, priests! Keep the hard-on in your pants ok?! Get away from the kids!

    November 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • palintwit

      And you teabaggers stay away from your cousins.

      November 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Or occupy protesters just raping everyone in the movement. No wonder they are fighting so hard for all of those tents. Makes it easier to concel and hide assualts.

      Love playing this game. Find the group you dislike and just make post like this and them believe ones self clever.

      November 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  15. ARCEON

    Because of this ad, millions of kids are in grave danger right now!

    Kids, steers clear of priests and imams, will you?

    They're all aroused by this!

    November 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • ameriperv

      Not to mention US football coaches, US swim team coaches, US rock stars (Neverland), US public officials.

      November 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  16. NoDoubt

    Benetton has been doing ads like these for decades. Most of the time their ads have nothing to do with clothing but about peace and unity. As open-minded as I usually am, I can see where this ad would offend lots of people. I'm pro gay-marriage but these are two men I do not want to see kissing. Gross.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  17. Nancy

    Wow, Benetton is really stupid for putting out an ad like this!

    November 17, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • John


      Latest score


      November 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Ruth

    Wouldn't be the first male a pope has kissed. I'm just surprised he's over 10 years old.

    November 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  19. ARCEON

    IMAM: "Here, let me show you how the kid tastes like."

    POPE: "Oh, lovely."

    November 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  20. austin-inyang

    I have no truck with muslims, but what does this picture accomplish, really? And why did Benetton pull it, if its such a great exercise of self-expression?

    November 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
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