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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. Jodi Cornbread in Da House

    Ridiculous. Respect and tolerance is achieved by showing courtesy for others beliefs. Purposely posting a provocative image that is sacrilegious is the complete opposite of respect, and the fact they act like they did nothing wrong is astounding. Such is the world we live in today.

    And before anyone judges me, I'm a Christian and have no problem with gays, science or anything else you all love to claim we all hate.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Jodi, define sacrilegious so I know where you are coming from.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • stardust

      There is NO REASON for anyone to respect the Roman Catholic church or Islam especially given that the doctrines and many of the leaders of both religions routinely promote bigotry.

      Get a life.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  2. me

    Idiots. Pretty stupid (trying to to satisfied some g-s agenda again?)

    November 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  3. alfonds

    I had no idea the Pope liked Obama that much!!!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  4. We know the truth...

    If the Pope was shown French kissing a 10-year-old boy, that would have been far more believable...

    November 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  5. Bob

    That ad gave my such a stiff Crucifix!!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Bob, drop that thing in a jar of your own urine and take a photograph. Now THAT'S Art.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • stardust

      PA.. were you joking? Only asking 'cause I love the p*ss Christ.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Hells no, I loves me some pi ss Christ!

      November 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  6. shadetree

    Does everyone think they will live forever? Perhaps you should think about someone/something other than yourselves before you criticize others. Perhaps think about your own mortality?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      I am thinking....I am thinking.....yes, I will die.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  7. Aaron

    No class .... Shame on them all will never buy one item of them. Hope they all get hit by lightning.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • stardust

      Yes yes.. making a mock-up showing the leaders of two of the world's largest and most violent religions kissing is so classless

      November 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Bob

      Why dont you explain your bigoted views to us?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • stardust

      Please!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • David L.

      Believe what I believe or you shall be killed! That's awfully Christian of you Aaron.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  8. darntootin

    Gee, this photo offended some people... go figure. Who would have thought...?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  9. opinionated

    Disgusting idea for ad campaign.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Bob

      Why??

      November 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  10. lisa

    Stupid ad concept designed for stupid customers who can't even buy clothing without being lured in by some provocative image. Advertising has gone to h*ll.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  11. stardust

    Given the atrocious history of the Catholic church I think it's utterly disgusting every time someone tries to defend them.

    Talk about ethics of convenience.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  12. popes a child abuser

    Why waste any time on the freak disgusting pope. He's worse than Sandusky at Penn State

    November 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  13. Lee Cherry

    WOW! That's like kissing the DEVIL himself. agghhhhhhhh!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • stardust

      Question is, which one is the devil?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Lee Cherry

      BOTH: They are both members of pagan religions. The pope, with his idol worship, is the head of the world's worst religion, and the other worships 17 virgins. lol

      November 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  14. Aleksandr

    This is disgusting! And I'm an atheist.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Sydney Australia

      I was just thinking the same thing reading the article. What an utterly stupid campaign.

      I will not be buying any Benetton products.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  15. stardust

    That would make a great t-shirt!

    Saved the image just in case.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Lee Cherry

      You might get shot for wearing that T-shirt–but good idea anyway

      November 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • stardust

      ..and wouldn't it just be so unusual for a religious zealot to attack a person who doesn't respect their idol?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  16. Chris

    Wow, sometimes secular media acts as if its completely brain dead. I think that if they wish to do anything but preach to their own choir it would be best to approach Catholicism and Islam with some respect for their own norms, even if they hold those norms in contempt. If hate is some combination of rejection of the "other's" values and violence, I personally think this ad campaign qualifies. Hatred seeks provocation and reactionary response. Love seeks greater understanding, I think.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • christopher

      A wise and insightful comment!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • David L.

      "If hate is some combination of rejection of the "other's" values and violence" Where is the violence? You make a good point by saying that it might be in their best interest to appeal to both religious and secular audience alike, but then you take it a step too far by trying to label this as hatred and violent.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • stardust

      Rubbish. The hate is coming from the "holier than thou" crowd who think that they are being victimized every time something like this happens. The Catholic church and Islam don't deserve any more respect than any other business.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Chris

      I guess I would call it violence in the sense that it is purposely provoking a reaction (and as we can probably assume, not likely an intelligent or thoughtful reaction). I don't deny that there is a time and place to be provocative about injustice or to hold some righteous indignation. Some modern art is successful in doing just that, pointing to whats wrong in society. This piece is not. It clearly is just picking a fight, by completely disregarding its subjects perspectives. That's violence, stepping over a boundary that need not be crossed. Its the kind of provocation that can lead two people to physical violence not unlike the vitriol that has poisoned our political debates. People on both sides need to be more charitable to each other.

      November 17, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  17. steama

    Wonderful ad!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  18. Passive Aggressive

    No HeavensSent kissing William Deluded?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  19. Passive Aggressive

    How about HeavenSent kissing one of her cats hard on the lips?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  20. Robear in Ojai

    I wouldn't kiss Pope Benedict on the mouth for all the gold in the Vatican! God only knows what those lips have touched...

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

      I don't know that's a lot of money.....

      November 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I would. But no tongue!

      November 17, 2011 at 11:25 am |
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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.