The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Great Britain has confirmed that the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has converted to Islam. Ambassador Collis (60) accompanied his wife, Huda Mujarkech, to Mecca on pilgrimage wearing the traditional simple white garb of those making what in Arabic is known as the “haj.”  A photograph of the pair, depicted in pilgrim’s clothing, showed them standing before the gate of the British consulate in the holiest city of Saudi Arabia.
 
All Muslims are called upon to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime. Fifteen million Muslims travel to Mecca, the supposed birthplace of Muhammed -- the founder of Islam, every year. It is the most diverse place in the Muslim world because it attracts believers from all over the world. However, no non-Muslims (kafir) are admitted. Few non-Muslims have entered Mecca. Among the exceptions is British explorer and linguist Richard Francis Burton, who traveled there in disguise in the 1850s. After making the haj, Burton sported the title “haji” -- pilgrim -- which is attached to the names of Muslims who make the trek.
 
The photograph was published online by Fawziah al-Bakr, a Saudi women’s rights activist. Al-Bakr wrote:  “The first British ambassador in the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] to do haj after converting to Islam. Thanks be to God." Al-Bakr is a professor at King Saud University. In 2013, Newsweek magazine dubbed her one of the 125 most influential women in the world.
 
 
Ambassador Collis has confirmed that he converted to Islam after living and working in Muslim societies for 30 years. He is now to be known as “Ambassador Haji Collis.” Reportedly, Collis reportedly converted before his marriage to Huda in 2011, as required for those marrying a Muslim woman. According to Islamic religious law, any Muslim who converts to any other faith is liable to the death penalty by beheading. Those who marry a non-Muslim who does not convert also face severe sanctions under Islam’s sharia law.
 
Collis has served as Britain's ambassador to Qatar, Syria, and most recently to Iraq. His credentials as ambassador to Saudi Arabia were accepted in February 2015.
 
The Saudi royal government considers itself the defender of Mecca and holy places in the kingdom. It imposes harsh religious law and strict penalties enjoined by Wahabi Islam that is enforced by special police who enforce sharia law. Saudi Arabia regularly beheads citizens and non-citizens for crimes ranging from blasphemy and conversion from Islam, adultery, homosexual acts, rape, murder, and defamation of Muhammed or the Koran. Even though the governments of Great Britain and the United States regularly report on human rights abuses committed by the Oil Kingdom, the two countries also regularly sell billions of dollars in arms and weapons systems to the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is the largest single exporter of petroleum to the United States in the world, thus securing for itself considerable weight in geopolitics and in the deliberations of politicians and diplomats.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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