“I have converted to Islam after being in Muslim societies for 30 years, and right before getting married to Huda,” said British Ambassador Simon Paul Collis who tweeted this in Arabic last week.
Collis, who speaks fluent Arabic, is the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. As the ambassador, he represents The Queen and the United Kingdom in their assigned country. Collis is married to Huda al-Mujarkech, who is Syrian. The two were photographed in ihram, the traditional white robes worn for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim must make at least once in their lives. Few people knew of Collis’s conversion to Islam before the photograph appeared.
The 60-year-old father-of-five had previously served as the Ambassador to Syria between 2007 until 2012, when diplomatic relations broke down between the UK and President Bashar al-Assad’s government. After Collis left Damascus in 2012, he served as an ambassador to Iraq until 2014, before moving to Riyadh in January 2015. His diplomatic career has also included stints in several Middle Eastern countries, including as ambassador in Iraq and Qatar and senior diplomatic positions in United Arab Emirates, Yemen, India and Tunisia.
Though Collis converted to Islam in 2011, shortly before marrying Huda, it had become public knowledge after pictures were posted on Twitter of him and his wife at the Hajj in ihram, posing at the gates of the British Consulate in Mecca. The Arabic news site Mail Online’ first reported the pictures after they were posted by Fawziah Albakr from the King Saud University. Albakr wrote, “The first British ambassador to the Kingdom leads the pilgrimage after his conversion to Islam: Simon Collis with his wife Mrs. Huda in Mecca. Praise be to Allah.”
Collis responded on Twitter by thanking her and said, “May Allah bless you.”
Collis was among an estimated 19,000 British pilgrims performing Hajj this year as they celebrated Eid al-Adha.
Among the first who congratulated the ambassador and his wife was Princess Basmah, the daughter of King Saud, of Saudi Arabia. “Special congratulations to the ambassador and his wife,” wrote Princess Basmah.