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. nrog

    The photo is more funny than creepy. The creepy part is the filthy French guy staring longingly, wondering if the kiss is also French, n'est pas?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  2. sb

    Don't worry this dirty world is prepared for any kind of combination.. this is a new dimension.. go on .. bring it on..

    November 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  3. nrog

    I don't like that ad, however I do enjoy reading all the religious loons here who are going apoplectic over it.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. newt

    I understand why people are uspet. One guy is old, ugly and wearing a much too fancy dress, and the other guy is old, ugly, and looks unwashed. Moral of this story:
    Don't over-dress, and don't under-bathe.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Bob

      I hear ya! If the pope and the cleric were both female, in their 20s and hot, this would have been the best advertising campaign ever!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  5. awdam

    Cool it's all ah and mo-hame-head! They make such a cute couple.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  6. dscon

    I see CNN will not show/link the pic of Obama kissing Chinas leader.
    Cover for the annointed one obviously.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • scranton

      Exactly! If this had been Obama kissing some other guy CNN wouldn't have the picture plastered on the front page of their news site. CNN is enabling these people to promote their doctored photo.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Bob

      "annointed one" – HAHAHA – you just revealed yourself as a Hannity-lover – and I am guessing that you dont watch it for the comic relief, like I do...

      November 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • awdam

      They claim that showing the president with his head knee deep in the chinese leaders @$$ might send the wrong message..................,

      November 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  7. meme

    We need to all stop buying their clothing. I will no longer buy anything from them.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • nrog

      I'm pretty sure you aren't their target audience.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • newt

      I will now.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  8. easyas123

    it should be the pope and a little boy kissing

    November 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • hippypoet

      that you would be ok with? child abuse is cool, but gay men kissing is totally out...wow!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • nrog

      Or Coach Sandusky.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • vikram22

      I understand the sins that the catholic church has committed easyas123 but promoting the continuation of hate against them is precisely what Benetton tried(and failed) to do with these insulting and disrespectful ads. As difficult as it is for us human beings not to judge (lord knows I have done my share), we should all strive to not perpetuate the bad but rather accentuate the good.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  9. sonofgadfly

    Where can I get a print of this poster?

    November 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  10. hippypoet


    You go around kissing your neighbours like that???? maybe you do but it's not right

    what makes it wrong? i mean if the person wants a kiss, why not? I have kissed another man before.. besides the beard – it is exactly like kissing a woman – not sure if you have experience doing either but i will tell you its thrilling!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • MARIA in ABq


      November 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • hippypoet

      would you object to two women kissing? if not that makes you a complete moron for its the same thing! gay is gay... you may have terms to separat the se-xes but that act of same gender on same gender is the same! deal with it!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  11. MARIA in ABq

    Looks real to me.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  12. jimbo

    Looks like Obamalamama is kissing up on a bunch of dudes on the Benetton website too, bwahaha.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  13. jimbo

    This is pretty hilarious if you ask me. I wonder which religion is going to try to bomb Benetton first, the catholics or muslims? The should show an ad with Jesus and Mohamad laying in the same bed smoking a cigarette on the next one, lol. I wonder who would take it, Jesus or Mohamad?

    November 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  14. pbsat

    No more United Colors of Benetton. This is a fabrication just like their brand that exploits people in developing countries.
    If you push the Gay agenda too far, it only gets more repulsive for normal people.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Bryan

      Don't be ridiculous. It's not a gay agenda. It's a kiss.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  15. Muhammad

    Remove that disgusting picture for God's sake. It got me nauseated and I was about to throw up on my computer. CNN has become morally bankrupt by posting such filthy Photoshopped photo. Just a brief news article without a photo would have been sufficient. It seems most CNN staff enjoy seeing men kissing and phuking.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • beelzabarber

      nope...they just enjoy seeing the Catholic sheep blow a gasket. YOU folks need to relax and come to grips. You are neither moral, nor a majority

      November 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • nrog

      I think Muhammad doth protest too much. Wonder why?

      November 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • scranton

      You are absolutely 100% correct Muhammad.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  16. hawaiiduude

    netanyahoo slipped the tongue in abbas mouth

    November 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  17. ZZeyn

    They could've made the same point by making people kiss on cheeks! Why lips??? I like Benetton but this is even too much for me.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  18. JohnMcLaugh

    If it wasn't for the outrage of "the faithful" i would've never seen this ad

    November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  19. Dc mortimer

    Sales must be bad at Benetton, that picture is just out right disgusting .

    November 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Don

      While I understand the intent of the ad and admire the idea, the execution was not very well thought out. Just a little forethought would have been nice. Why not use anonymous people, interracial couples, interfaith couples, etc.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  20. kenny

    any christian or muslim upset by this is a hypocrite of the highest order and an idiot for not understanding its deeper meaing. Of course all most moronic anti-gay bigots can see is this supposed "immoral" act. When the real meaning is so blatantly obvious a child could understand it. "Love thy neighbor" but since christians and muslims have allowed a very small minority to stoke the fear and hate the phrase love thy enemy works well too... sadly... until you religious people stomp on the nutbags that stoke fear and hate in the name of your religion and get over your bigoted anti-gay bs beliefs, us Others will stomp on all of you every chance we get to make you look as foolish, ignorant and pathetic as the minority of nutbags you allow to speak for you.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Plug1


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

      dude ..ease up. your wound too tight. you sound as bad as these two zealots.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Guest

      Hey man, just chill. Sorry if you're offended by being gay and not being accepted like normal people. But you seem to have gone overboard with your hateful comments.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Disgusted

      You go around kissing your neighbours like that???? maybe you do but it's not right

      November 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • george

      you say these christians haven't got the message... well have you? you seem to be more hatefull than they are. how about benetton picking you kissing a christian?

      November 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Come here my little poopsy mmm mmm mmm. You are such a sweety yes you are! mmm mmm mmm

      November 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • hippypoet

      kissing men is exactly like kissing a woman... minus the beard, granted some women have beards – so ... whatever!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • MWG

      Agreed. Swing away Kenny. You got my attention.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Guest – "Hey man, just chill. Sorry if you're offended by being gay and not being accepted like normal people. But you seem to have gone overboard with your hateful comments."

      I'm almost not sure if that was meant to be a joke or not. You call his comments hateful but then separate gays from "normal"s without batting an eye. If it was a joke, I applaud you, if it was not then I just feel sorry for you and hope some day you can grow up out of the dark ages your religion has kept you in for far too long.

      November 17, 2011 at 9:51 am |
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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.