'Pope kissing Imam' Benetton ad campaign sparks outrage

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Benetton ad with Pope-Imam
Rome, Nov 17: Popular Italian store Benetton is in the center of controversy over their new set of provocative ads that feature world leaders in strange situations that has irked all. The latest publicity campaign launched on Wednesday features the Pope and the Imam in a passionate kiss. This malicious campaign has targeted leaders like US President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and many others.

Part of their 'UNHATE' campaign, the ads appeared in Benetton clothing stores and in newspapers, internet and magazines. Benetton deputy chief Alessandro Benetton in a statement said that the ads were 'constructive provocation' intended 'to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance'. He added that "Benetton chooses social issues and actively promotes humanitarian causes that could not otherwise have been communicated on a global scale".

The ad featuring a passionate embrace between the Imam and the Pope was displayed on a banner near the Sant'Angelo castle near the Vatican. Some of the other ads released as part of the same campaign includes Barack Obama kissing Hu Jintao and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smooching Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas besides the controversial image of Pope Benedict XVI in a passionate kiss with Egyptian Imam Ahmed el Tayyeb.

The head of the Association of Italian Catholic Television Viewers, Luca Borgomeo demanded the removal of the ads.

Benetton was earlier involved in controversy in the 1990s when their ad featured a young nun in a white habit kissing a priest dressed in a black cassock. On the latest ad campaign, the company issued a statement that said, "The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders."

The image of the Pope and the Imam was particularly scathing after this comes in the aftermath of Benedict expressing solidarity with the victims of an attack on a church in Alexandria. Al-Azhar Imam, on the other hand is one of the most important voices among Sunni Muslims. There was a strain in their relationship following this.

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