|Darkness at noon|
It was announced a few days ago that Simon Collis, 60, the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, had converted to Islam and recently completed the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Apparently he had converted to Islam in 2011 before marrying a Muslim woman, though it was not publicly announced at the time. I assume his superiors knew of it.
As a quasi-secret Muslim, perhaps the first Muslim convert in modern British diplomatic history, Collis had three of the most important and sensitive assignments in the Middle East - Syria, Iraq and now Saudi Arabia.
As the article below points out, Collis is certainly not the first Brit to "go native," the most famous example, of course, being T. E. Lawrence. But for all of his complexities, Lawrence never converted to Islam and had many critical things to say about the Wahhabi version of it practiced on the Arabian peninsula.
Of course, an ambassador should know as much as possible about the relevant society and culture. And he or she should be empathetic to the people concerned.
That doesn't include pledging one's soul to one of the foulest creeds ever created by mortal men.
From the Daily Mail:
British ambassador to Saudi Arabia becomes first senior diplomat to convert to Islam and complete the Haj pilgrimage with Syrian Muslim wife
- Simon Collis, 60, pictured with Syrian wife Huda al-Mujarkech in traditional garments
- They made the annual pilgrimage to Mecca - a duty for every Muslim
- Decided to convert to Islam 'after spending 30 years in Muslim societies'
The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia has become the first senior diplomat to convert to Islam and complete the Haj.
Simon Collis, 60, said he had decided to convert to Islam 'after spending 30 years in Muslim societies'.
The father of five was pictured in the traditional white Ihram garments worn for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim must make at least once in their lives.
Mr Collis is married to Syrian Huda al-Mujarkech. He had previously served as Britain's ambassador to Syria between 2007 until 2012, when diplomatic relations broke down between the UK and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
He has served in a string of Middle Eastern countries, including stints as ambassador in Iraq and Qatar and senior diplomatic positions in United Arab Emirates, Yemen, India and Tunisia.
It is understood Mr Collis discretely converted to Islam in 2011, shortly before he married his current wife Huda.
Converting to Islam is a religious requirement for a man marrying a Muslim woman.
He becomes one of the most high profile British figures to convert to Islam. Most converts adopt a Muslim name but according to The Times, Mr Collis will continue using his English name.
Mr Collis' conversion to Islam emerged after pictures were posted on Twitter earlier this week of him and his wife at the Haj dressed in the traditional Ihram robes at the front of the royal seal at the gate of the British Consulate in Mecca.
The pictures were posted on Twitter by Fawziah Albakr from the King Saud University, who wrote in Arabic: '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.' Mr Collis thanked her on Twitter.
Mr Collis wrote on Twitter: 'May Allah bless you. Briefly, I converted to Islam after 30 years of living in Muslim societies and just before I married Huda.'
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed he had converted to Islam but refused to comment on when he converted, saying his religion was a private matter.
After leaving Damascus in 2012, Mr Collis served as ambassador to Iraq until 2014, before moving to Riyadh in January 2015.
His first stint as an ambassador was in Doha, Qatar between 2005 and 2007. He was Consul General in Basra, Iraq from 2004-2005 and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for four years previously.
He was deputy head of mission in Amman, Jordan from 1996-1999.
Mr Collis said he had converted to Islam 'right before getting married to Huda' but few knew of his conversion until the photo appeared.
Mr Collis was among an estimated 19,000 British pilgrims performing Haj this year as they celebrated Eid al-Adha, which always begins on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul-Hijja, during the annual pilgrimage.
In Saudi Arabia, more than two million Muslims descended on Mecca to celebrate the festival in one of the final rites of the Haj.