Tragedy in New Zealand hits close to home for Va. Beach superintendent, local mosques


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The superintendent of the Virginia Beach school district has a personal connection to the tragedy in New Zealand.

Dr. Aaron Spence was born where the attack happened when his father was stationed there with the Navy.

“Well it’s shocking. New Zealand is known as a really peaceful and welcoming country,” Spence said.

Although he doesn’t know anyone directly affected, news of the attack surprised him. “We’re just really saddened by what happened,” Spence said.

Although it’s been a somber day of remembering the victims, we’re told these events highlight the need for education and awareness of the Islamic faith.

It’s the same feeling over at the Islamic Center of Hampton.

“When we hear about things like that, we remember one verse from our holy book,” Dr. Ahmed Noor said. “It says goodness and evil are not equal. Repel the evil with what is better.”

Noor said despite the attack, members aren’t wavering. Services went on as usual and law enforcement offered their help.

“We got a call this morning, ‘do you need any centrally police to be present?’’ Noor said. “The number of people that came to our Friday service today was not any less than previous Fridays.”

Noor said one of the reasons behind the attacks is a lack of understanding of the Islamic faith. 

Spence agrees.

“I always say that this kind of hatred and anger seems to stem from fear and I think ignorance and as an educator, I think through education we can teach that diversity is important,” Spence said.

Spence said teachers are speaking with students who have questions, and for those who have questions about Islam, Noor invites them to their mosque.

“We feel that in our area, hopefully this can never happen,” Noor said.

If you’re interested in getting a better understanding of Islam, Noor developed an education tool on the center’s website that you can find here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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