Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia has performed Hajj rituals after converting to Islam, becoming the first ever British ambassador to do so.
Simon Collis, completed the Hajj with his wife Huda al-Mujarkech, a Syrian Muslim, this week, according to Arab media reports.
As the first British ambassador to the kingdom, Collis converted to Islam in 2011, after living among Muslims in various Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, as well as India and Tunisia.
“In short, I converted to Islam after spending 30 years in Muslim societies and before getting married to Huda,” the 60-year-old diplomat wrote on his Twitter.
Collis, who speaks fluent Arabic, has been serving as an ambassador to Riyadh since 2015. He has also served as ambassador to Iraq, Syria and Qatar.
He was withdrawn from Syria in 2012, amid security concerns caused by foreign-backed militants who have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.
The UK Foreign Office refused to comment on the news, saying the ambassador’s religion was a personal matter. Collis, too, turned down all requests for an interview.
Collis is believed to be the first British ambassador to ever carry out the Muslim pilgrimage, although other British ambassadors have converted to Islam before.
Britain’s first diplomat to convert to Islam was Abdullah William Quilliam, who served as a 19th century ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
East London Mosque officials hailed Collis’ move, telling the Times that they hoped Collins would be “able to share his recent experiences from the hajj with his non-Muslim colleagues at the British embassy.”
This year’s Hajj rituals were overshadowed by last year’s Mina crush, where thousands of pilgrims lost their lives during a stampede that happened in Mina, near Mecca.
Iran says about 7,000 people, including the 465 Iranians, lost their lives in the incident, which occurred due to extreme incompetence on part of Saudi officials.