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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. E

    I honestly think this is amazing. Massive respect for the artist!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  2. Dave

    Hey, they're trying to sell overpriced clothes! All's fair.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  3. Ron

    It would have been a little better if Imam had shaved first.Yuk !!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  4. THE POPE

    I don't care , leave the Ad 🙂

    November 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  5. Tim Hurst

    really funny but I think the pope is a dope no matter who is kissing him.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  6. hippypoet

    i have kissed other men, and i find it no different then kissing women, minus the beards! do you bigots have an issue with two women kissing?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Can they be hot asian chicks in maid costumes?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • hippypoet

      take the chicks out as i feel beastiality is wrong but other then that, same concept! 😉

      November 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • adamthefirst

      Funny you say bigots, people who don't respect other peoples religious beliefs, is also called bigotry.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      I kissed a religious leader and I liked it.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      I kissed a religious leader and I liked it

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • David L.

      adamthefirst, that's not bigotry.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Again.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • hippypoet

      hating on people and hating on a religion is a tad different, but i get your point... i think my stance is the higher one here... if i hate on something the breeds hate i believe i am doing good by spreading the word of TRUTH... but by hating on a person's love life is just idioticly stupid and wrong... no one tells you folks not to kiss women, but its completely ok with you folks to tell others who not to kiss... people are generally stupid low creatures of little understanding, but this doesn't have to be this way.. teach you children well!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  7. JamesRaynor

    man. that picture is turning me on.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Circle Jerk!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  8. There are no gods!

    Lol, funny ad! I want to see more! How about a christian nutcase kissing some jewish nutcase in a big bed wearing speedos!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  9. LookandSEE

    cnn is biased!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      But in a good way.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  10. JP

    I think I saw tongue!!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  11. R

    Stop this obscenity. We love our culture and bloodshed and hatred. According to our religions, any sign of love is strictly forbidden.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • John

      Good one!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  12. *frank*

    Which of them has the more ruthless grip? Only their hairdresser knows for sure!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  13. GJ

    Uh...nice try, but did they think about the cultural tabu's they were stepping on? I'm not aware of too many cultures where two people of the same gender that are NOT a couple kiss each other on the mouth? They should have done their research first. And there are other ways to photographically express mutual acceptance – non-doctored ones, preferably.

    The image depicted in this article is disgusting.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • hippypoet

      please enlighten me as to how this is disgusting.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • hippypoet

      like i thought... your lack of answer shows you for the bigot you are... you are full of hate and it will be the death of you!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  14. AnotherView

    So distasteful, and I resent being "told" what to think by the gravest irreverence of this putrid ad. Too late to pull it for me, I've already pulled my business.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • hippypoet

      please enlighten me as to how this is distasteful.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • *frank*

      "Too late to pull it for me, I've already pulled my business."
      That's what the imam said.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • David L.

      *frank*, that was funny. And AnotherView, I'm guessing Benetton is distraught over the loss of your business. Why would you stop patronizing a business for doing this?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • hippypoet

      like i thought... your lack of answer shows you for the bigot you are... you are full of hate and it will be the death of you!!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  15. Robert Pope

    Lols, expecting hate groups to not be offended when they are mocked loving eachother...

    November 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  16. David L.

    Kudos Benetton, way to exploit free marketing through the media. The marketing department knew full-well what they were doing, and they got it in spades. By posting such inflammatory advertisments, they knew that there would be an outcry, and tons of media attention. Because there are so many people who are going to make a big deal out of nothing when stuff like this happens, this stuff keeps happening. All those screaming out there are only giving these companies the power. Live, and let live, and chill out a bit.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  17. Tr1Xen

    Yeah, I'd have to agree that this ad is in poor taste, even if no offense was intended.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      It looks like they are enjoying the taste to me.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Lick

    You can't really tell, but there could be tongues involved, and God knows, the devil finds work for idle hands.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  19. Gomer

    Wow. What a hateful ad.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Hateful? It is beautiful and loving!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • David L.

      I don't see what is hateful about it at all. Care to explain?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  20. maher

    "Love thy neighbor" doesn't necessarily mean go around kissing everybody. stay in contaxt 😉

    November 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      What does contaxt mean?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 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.