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. DC

    Congrats Benetton, you snagged my attention... moooooving on now

    November 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  2. Matt

    Benetton is just joining a growing list of companies who subscribe to the flawed idea that the way to attract more customers is to flat out annoy and offend people. This campaign was just a ruse designed to part suckers from their money. It also just cements Benetton's place as a counter-culture icon.

    The thing about stirring the pot in an ad campaign is that although it can (and will attract) all kinds of attention to your brand in the short-term, in the long-term it's not going to bear any fruit. I think in years to come, the foolhardiness of advertising in this way will be pretty evident.

    I yawn when I think Benetton anyway- it's just an overpriced boring brand for Euro-types whose primary joy in life is getting under the rest of "normal" society's skin.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  3. Joe

    What is wrong with you, CNN? Why would you post this? This is a disgraceful to Christians and fraudulent. More anti-Christian drivel that you are known for.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Jason

      oh get off your high horse..so what..its a fake 'pic'. So it shows the pope kissing an adult man...big deal. It's a step up from him and his pedo crew kissing boys like he's used to doing..

      November 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Vince

      joe. Shut up!

      November 17, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  4. Kenny

    I'm personally not really offended by the ad as I don't make myself subservient to organized religion, but to me, it just doesn't seem the ad campaign itself was well thought out. Did they REALLY think that no one would be offended by this? If they didn't, then they need to scrap their current marketing team and start from scratch. This one was just stupid, and probably spearheaded by a very young person without the greatest experience.....

    November 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Matt

      Of course they thought it would offend people. They wouldn't have released it if they had not. Corporations aren't usually run by fools, and the things they do in the advertising and marketing world are only designed to get attraction for their brand. Like a rotten little kid, Benetton, like many other companies, believes (mistakenly) that there is no such thing as "bad attention".

      November 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  5. GodPot

    If people just decided to no longer be a part of any group that discriminates and sells hate to it's members then no one would be trying to force gays upon the Catholics, Catholics just would cease to exist as a group, along with just about every other organized religion.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Joe

      Atheist. Typical response.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • ajk68

      I think you've captured the spirit of the Coexist movement, which is a viewpoint that all religion is equally wrong so it doesn't matter which one you believe in. While masquerading under tolerance, Coexist is an extremely intolerant view which really just wants everybody who disagrees with their viewpoint to disappear.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • RandallStevens

      Absolutely! Remove all opposition! If you don't like the way the Catholics work, then just get rid of them. Brilliant!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Matt

      You see, THAT is the perfectly non-threatening, wallflower response that Benetton and other brands thrive on. It has appeal to non risk-takers.

      Have an opinion! Believe in SOMETHING. Live your life with a purpose and meaning. Don't fool yourself into thinking that by being completely passive and "vanilla" in life will somehow make it a life well-lived.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • GodPot

      So do you claim to not discriminate or are you just defending your discrimination? Typical religious apologist.

      Question to all Christians: If tonight during your prayers you hear Gods voice which commands you to go out and talk to others about your faith and to convert people to your religion would you do it? Now what if your God told you to buy a gun and go kill people?

      A man walks up to a woman at the bar and says "Hi, I'm very very rich, would you sleep with me for $1 billion dollars." The woman quickly looks to her husband next to her who looks back with a smile and dollar signs in his eyes. She turns to the man and says "Ok, yeah, I'd do it" to which the rich man reply's "Well would you sleep with me for $20 bucks?" which prompts the womans husband to jump up and declare "Hey! My wife ain't no w h o r e!! The man calmly reply's "We already established what she is, now were just haggling over the price."

      November 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  6. tom-ay

    of course the religious have a problem laughing at themselves. they will never understand the irony.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • GodPot

      Ah yes, Irony... Isn't that the feeling ones wrists might have afterbeing tied to a barbed wire fence in Laramie?...

      November 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  7. Mickey

    Men kiss men ... fathers/sons, brothers, for instance. Even good friends kiss each other.

    The ad is offensive based on how Society views tiny fleas on others – but doesn't not see the elephant on Self.

    What is even more offensive is that the photo was doctored – so it's phoney and not truthful to the Public. Shame on that company and their advertising team.

    Shame on anyone for publishing untrue things. Even true visuals are unbelievable to most people! LOL

    It's time for Catholics to move into the 21st Century ... they are sure paying for their Vatican to live the high life. Get back to basics. Popes are man-made positions of power to keep the flock in their pens.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Chuck

      "Men kiss men ... fathers/sons, brothers, for instance. Even good friends kiss each other."

      Yes, they do. And they do so of their own volition and to convey a very specific meaning. Forcing two people to kiss via PhotoShop is offensive and steps way over the boundaries of good conduct.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  8. epicjourney

    Truth doesn't matter, facts don't matter, only realizing our agenda matters.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  9. fortunate

    I like that piece of CNN News: 'a doctored picture of the pope kissing a male Muslim cleric '.
    Hey, CNN 'wizards', where did you see female Muslim cleric?
    Or do you mean that Muslim cleric is still true male and not a eunich because he is able to grow a beard?
    It would be good to study something before writing about it.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  10. Fr33th1nk3r

    All in all, I have to say– complements to the artist, that is some very fine Photoshop work. Even the shading is right.... (of course, I will provide the disclaimer that I am a noob when it comes to 'Shopping pictures)

    November 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  11. Insight

    The should have shown the bottom of the picture too to see where the holy staff is

    November 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • ARCEON

      LOL! It's right up and in there, that's fo sho..

      November 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  12. The LORD

    I believe that the imam is about 50 years too old for the pope.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Cradle robber

      November 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Barack Obama

    What a great idea! I am disappointed they are pulling the ad. Should plaster it everywhere, finally, a real "world peace" picture.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Barack, you weren't left out:

      November 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Chuck

      No, it's not real. It's a Photochop.

      And that's the real shame here. Could not some picture be found that was real and that really showed some act of peace? Are we so bad off that there are no real pictures illustrating peace?

      November 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  14. Bo

    @hippy, You have a money making idea; you could name you news media : CONTRVERSIAL NEWS–real-n-fake. It would be a hoot. I finealy goggled in the right thing and found the information I was looking for. The Creed of Nicaea, although not clear, says, in my words, that Christ was, in one way or another, a created being. That is important and unacceptable to me. I'm sure this is of no importance to you, so I'll spare you the details.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • ajk68

      Actually Nicea says exactly the opposite:
      "But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church."

      November 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • ajk68

      Christ assumed a human nature, uniting it to his person. The second person of the Trinity, The Son, has two natures – divine and human – in one person.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • TXpresby

      Actually, the Nicene Creed clearly states that Jesus was begotten, not made. I didn't look for your original post to even see why that matters but I just thought I would point it out. Try the Apostle's Creed if you want something simpler.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  15. RealityCheck

    Benetton DEMONSTRATED the hatred that they hypocritically claimed to be fighting. No wonder they are becoming more irrelevant each day.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      That is not why. Their problem is the price going up on raw materials for dil does and but t plugs.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • ajk68

      Benetton is somewhat notorious for their progressive agenda – which in this case includes attacking organized religion.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  16. Jay

    Bennetton has been known to come up with provocative daring ad campaigns !! They hadn't had a hit since quite some time...They did it again !!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  17. No More

    NO MORE!!! All religious people: especially Catholics, Christians and Muslims should BOYCOTT Benetton until they are out of business!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jason

      why? because its not a picture of the pope and priests kissing little boys? That's what you're used to.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  18. Da Professor

    FUNNY? Only if you are dumb as a doorknob and gay as a squirrel..

    November 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  19. Enrique


    November 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  20. Joe Black

    soooooooo faaaakknnn hilarious!!! hahahahhahahahahaha take that 21st century religion!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • ajk68

      So you admit it is an affront to religion. So much for tolerance.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:28 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.