Guest speaker Dina El-Nakhal shed some light on the Islam faith at the weekly Rotary Club meeting Tuesday.

El-Nakhal addressed some common misconceptions about Islam and then opened the forum for a question-and-answer segment.

The “hot-button topics” she discussed ranged from the meaning of the word “jihad” to an overview of the five pillars of Islam to the social status of Muslim women.

Although the session was brief, club members and guests felt that El-Nakhal touched on a number of important points.

Among the participants of the question-and-answer segment was former Rotary Club president Robert Tamblyn, who asked El-Nakhal for clarification on the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam. Afterwards, Tamblyn said he thought the discussion was informative and beneficial.

Rotary Club member Dona Mast also appreciated El-Nakhal’s discussion.

“I thought it was very enlightening,” Mast said. “I’d like to hear more. I’m sure I’ll still be thinking about it when I get home tonight.”

El-Nakhal, a senior engineer for the Department of Transportation, was introduced by her father Hamza El-Nakhal, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the Sacramento Valley.

“It’s really an honor to be with the Rotary Club here today,” Hamza said. “Before 9/11, we would go to work, take care of our family, but all of a sudden, there was this negativity toward Muslims.”

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Dina said, people started associating the word “jihad” with terrorism.

“Generally, people assume ‘jihad’ means terrorism,” Dina said. “In fact, jihad means ‘struggle for the betterment of the self, society and the world.'”

Another misconception, Dina said, is the idea that Muslims place women on a social status beneath men.


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