Sibley, Publisher
Ms. DiSetfano, Special Advertising Section
Business Week
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Souvenirs from the Rome Gift Shop

Dear Mss. Sibley and DiStefano

I was jarred to find on Page 35 of this week’s edition of Business Week, a false and grossly misleading ad by the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation representing that it had been awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

Ms. Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC has an article in the May 26th edition of The Weekly Standard about the ad that appeared in the May 8th editions of The Washington Post and the New York Times and, now Business Week, among other major US media.

Here is a link and an excerpt from Ms. Shea’s article:

    In the end, it was consultations with an independent expert on the Vatican and interviews with several recipients that solved the mystery: The medal shown in the ad is a common souvenir.

    It is minted each year by the thousand and handed out as a memento to those granted an audience with the pope. All the staffers at the American embassy to the Holy See, for instance, have received it. It was given to White House officials when Pope Benedict met with Bush. It is for sale at the Vatican bookstore. It confers no honor at all.
Shea goes on to give us the nefarious purpose of this misleading ad:

In 2006, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, in a letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, quoted the king as referring to his government as the “Vatican of Islam.” The implication is that Saudi Arabia is not only hallowed ground as host of the two holiest Muslim sites, but also the arbiter of Islamic orthodoxy.

The recent ad directly supports this power play. It sets up visual parallels between the pope and the king, the Vatican and Mecca. A slogan at the bottom reads, “Two great faiths, Sharing one cause: humanity.” Using its control of the hajj and the vast wealth it pours into foreign evangelism, funding mosques, schools, libraries, and academic centers worldwide, the House of Saud is patiently pursuing its quest to make the Saudi variant of Islam–Wahhabism, with its warrant for the murder of heretics, apostates, and infidels–the Muslim norm. This is the ad’s chilling subtext.

The latest Saudi publicity stunt should not be dismissed as merely a boorish hoax. It offers a useful glimpse of the ambitions and methods of the Saudi state, which deserve to be taken seriously.


As a long term subscriber to Business Week, I would have expected that you would have vetted the facts in the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation full page ad. Apparently not. What does that say about the  integrity of Business Week with regard to the basic standard of ‘truth in advertising’?
I suspect that this may not be the first nor the last communications that you will received in this matter. It is one that you cannot afford to overlook and respond to if you want subscribers to have any trust on what appears in the contents of the magazine.
I would hope that some form of disclaimer might be issued in this matter to return the confidence that we have in your publication.
Very truly yours,


Jerome B. Gordon



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