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. History Buff

    This is just more of Benetton's 20 year campaign of doing outrageous ads to get free publicity. It works.
    If they said we did this because everyone puts our name in headlines they would get nowhere so they attribute it to high-minded motives. A one year boycott of Benetton would stop this silliness. BTW, I'm not Catholic and I don't care if the Pope is depicted kissing anyone – it's the manipulation of good causes as advertising that is wrong.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  2. PJ

    That is so funny!! I would think the Iman would have better taste though.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  3. LauraP

    What were they thinking? What self-respecting Catholic or Muslim will ever wear Benetton clothes again? Offending people to combat a "culture of hatred"? And this makes sense HOW? I hope they go bankrupt now. In this case, they have fostered a me hating their advertising culture– backfired big time!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  4. Red headed stranger

    After seeing this photo – I feel like going out and buying a funny-looking, pieced together, mismatched sweater and goofy hat with the ear flaps from these people. That's what was supposed to happen, right?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Sunny D

      They just want everyone to have their company's name in their heads. The ad campaign they paid for, but all the coverage of the ad campaign it where they really make out.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  5. Yea

    Right! you knew exactly what you were doing, you knew it would be an outcry,
    you are people of hate , not people against hate
    look into the mirror and STOP your lies

    November 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • FCB

      And your not smart...

      November 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  6. TB

    The ad did the trick – it has everyone talking about Benetton!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  7. 4mercy

    Gee, I wonder why they didn't use a set of prominent g a y men kissing hetero s e x u a l women???? Probably because the g a y community would be offended by THAT. This ad is meant to do nothing but continue the hatred for the religious faithful of the world.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  8. janus

    the pope is a child molesting, n a z i supporting closet h o m o!
    everybody knows it...everyone is just afraid to admit it publicly!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • 4mercy

      Your proof please? Let God be the judge. Lies only spread evil.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • janus

      the pope didnt investigate child molestation charges when first informed about them
      he sided with the n az is
      and as everyone except the 'faithful' know that the church is the safe haven for h o m o s and pedophiles
      and people tend to vigorously deny that which they are afraid is true!
      p o p e = f a g!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  9. John Richardson

    Leftists like to talk about "false consciousness". I submit that it is the epitome of false consciousness when people produce photos like this claiming that it is about stopping hate, when in fact that is what it is expressing.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  10. James PDX

    I heard they already pulled the one of Jerry Sandusky kissing Justin Bieber.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  11. John Richardson

    I'm no fan of popes or imams, but I can't see this pic as anything other than gratuitously insulting provocation for its own sake. I have no respect for that.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  12. donna

    Shame on them! I'm neither Catholic nor Muslim and I still found this ad to be the in the height of bad taste.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  13. Sarah

    I don't get the meaning of their campaign. They want to stop hate by saying that those who hate should be hated?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Sounds about right! The pretense is that this is about stopping hate. In fact, it is about expressing it.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Stupid non-believer

      What is so hard to get? This is really a no brainer ad campaign and it was clearly explained in the article. A kiss is a universally recognized gesture of love. A picture of 2 people who may not necessarily get along are shown kissing, hence showing that maybe we should all quit hating each other over silly differences as that's what out world society has turned into...or rather, always been like.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  14. Tuck

    Try putting Obama agansit Hu Jin Tao's ass then. Ads like this is meant to start a war and NOT stopping hatred. Stupid Benetton!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Gonzo

      Get a grip idiiiiooot, do you really believe such a pic will start a war?! You are surely delusional.

      I am mad that they pulled it down....you put these same next men weapons that kill people and have killed people under their bogus beliefs then it is fine....but noooo kiss! What a freaking upside down world we live in.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  15. alex

    ...and, shouldn't that be a little boy for the pope instead of a grown man?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  16. Gonzo

    I am glad they are kissing each other rather than little innocent boys.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  17. alex

    i know everybody said it already, but DAMN! that is freakin' hilarious.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  18. mickey1313

    So they can be heavy handed, and say what ever they want, but if someone says things against mother church, then you have to pull it. Thiests make me sick.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Par for the course


      It's okay for religious groups to offend you every day of your life, but the moment you offend them, you are in the wrong. Ain't religion grand?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  19. Zoldknight

    This is funny! I mean, really. This is offending people? Sure, it's a poke at religion and culture, but come on! It's a joke! I'm religious, i think it's funny, my catholic friends think it's funny, and my atheist friend find it hilarious. I think some people just want to be offended.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Gonzo

      I find it funny, if I saw a clip of them doing a porrrn clip...then I will find it hilarious..

      November 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  20. ohsnap


    November 16, 2011 at 8:09 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.