By WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS
Published: Jan 25, 2012 01:39 Updated: Jan 25, 2012 01:39
US businessman and pilot calls for efforts to project true image of his new religion
RIYADH: Just after spending one month in the Kingdom, where he was treated with kindness in a spiritual atmosphere, American businessman and pilot Richard Patterson, converted to Islam.
Richard, who is now called Abdulaziz, owns a company providing services in critical care. It has a capital of $50 million, and a fleet of two aircraft and two helicopters, specializing in medical flights.
Abdulaziz arrived in the Kingdom on a contract with the Saudi Red Crescent to train students for air emergency. During his stay, three members of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance invited him out for dinner. The members who worked with the “Guide Me to Islam” project, talked to Abdulaziz about Islam and it’s real essence.
“I came to the Kingdom for a commercial deal. I was so thrilled to make the best deal of my life with God Almighty by converting to Islam,” said Abdulaziz, during the conversion ceremony, commending the Saudi attire and describing it as comfortable and beautiful.
When Abdulaziz was in his country, he used to hear negative things about Islam through media channels, which were aimed at distorting its image.
“Just reading about Islam is not enough to understand Islam. It’s meeting people who best represent it and reflect its true spirit,” said Abdulaziz. He considers himself lucky to discover through Muslim friends he met and dealt with in the Kingdom that Islam is a religion of righteousness and tolerance. “Muslims and Saudis are kind, humble and open to others,” said Abdulaziz, adding that he felt they were like family to him, and never experienced alienation or ill treatment from their side.
What attracted Abdulaziz the most to the Saudi society is that it is religious. That helps people relate to religion as a part of their daily life. “I wish I could bring all my colleagues to the Kingdom to experience what I have and change their viewpoints on Islam,” he said.