The British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia was showered with congratulations from the Islamic world after word was released that he had converted to Islam as well as carried out his first Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca that was also the first one ever performed by a senior diplomat from the UK.
Simon Collis conversion to Islam was made public following the posting of pictures on an account in Twitter that showed him and Huda his wife, wearing traditional white garments that Muslim pilgrims wear, while the two stood in front of Britain’s consulate in Mecca.
The diplomat, who is 60, speaks Arabic fluently and confirmed that he converted to Islam on Twitter in responses to different messages.
He said he converted to Islam following 30 years living in different Muslim societies and prior to marrying his wife Huda.
The news created a wave of congratulations online from across the world of Islam with a number of Muslims saluting him as Haji Simon, a use of the title that is reserved for those that have made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Collis converted back in 2011 just prior to marrying wife Huda a Syrian. While some of his fellow diplomats knew of his conversion, it was not known publicly across Riyadh.
Britain’s Foreign Office did not comment, saying only that Collis’ religion was a matter that was personal.
While Collis acknowledged a number of the messages that congratulated him but he declined to hold any interviews regarding his faith.
The photos of he and his wife were posted first by a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia Fawziah Al-Bakr.
He is thought to be the first ambassador from Britain to complete the Hajj pilgrimage although there have been others that have converted to Islam prior to him.
Collis took his post for the first time in Riyadh during 2015 after completing a long diplomatic career in the Middle East. Between 2007 and 2012, he was Britain’s ambassador to Syria and upset the regime of al-Assad after criticizing the crackdown of the government on the Arab Spring peaceful protestors.
In February of 2012, he left Damascus when the government of the UK suspended its diplomatic relations with Syria.
Collis has also served as Britain’s ambassador to Iraq between 2012 and 2014 and prior to that the envoy for the UK to Qatar.
He graduated from Christ’s College, Cambridge and is the father of five.