Outrage ensued over a photo showing a black flag associated with the Islamic State terror group flying outside of a home in New Jersey, but the Muslim resident is now speaking out, claiming that the banner has nothing at all to do with extremist ideology or radicalism.
Image source: Twitter/Marc Leibowitz
Mark Dunaway, 44, told the NJ Advance Media that he has flown the flag every year for the past decade during Ramadan and on every Friday while he worships at a local mosque, adding that he never encountered any issues with it until a photo was recently posted on Twitter.
In fact, Dunaway said he had no idea controversy was raging over the flag until local police in Garwood, New Jersey, approached him on Tuesday, citing concerns over its display.
Dunaway has since taken down the flag, telling the NJ Advance Media that he never intended to offer support to ISIS, the terrorist group that has overtaken portions of Iraq, expelling and executing Christians and other minorities.
"I understand now that people turn on CNN and see the flag associated with jihad, but that's not the intention of that flag at all," he explained. "It says 'There is only one god, Allah, and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger.' It's not meant to be a symbol of hate. Islam is all about unity and peace."
Dunaway went on to say that he's a Muslim who loves the U.S. and that he isn't a part of any radical group, adding that the flag can be found in mosques around the globe and that it merely represents the fact that he's an Islamic adherent.
That said, he's not sure if he'll be flying it again anytime soon, replacing it with a light blue San Diego Chargers flag, according to WCBS-TV.
"I’m hesitant to fly it now considering it has caused so much trouble, which I don’t understand. I would love to fly it again on Friday," he added. "I hope this situation goes away."
At least one neighbor told the NJ Advance Media that Dunaway is "harmless" and that he has flown the Islamic flag many times before in the past. But other locals felt it was inappropriate for it to be displayed in light of ISIS's horrific actions in the Middle East.
"It is wrong, but he can also fly any flag that he wants to, it is America," local resident James McHugh told WCBS-TV. "But at this time, he should not be flying that flag under the circumstances that we are going through right now."
The image initially went viral after being posted to Twitter by Marc Leibowitz, who describes himself as an "Israeli paratrooper turned investment manager."
He explained that he notified authorities after a friend shared a picture of the flag with him; he subsequently alerted Homeland Security considering the recent ISIS news coming out of the Middle East. Leibowitz said that he felt bad for causing Dunaway problems if the flag was truly a simple religious expression.
This is hardly the first time black Islamic flags have been displayed in the U.S. Consider TheBlaze's coverage of the New York City Muslim Day Parade last year, which revealed that black flags with white writing were on display during the festivities.
"The black banner, also known as the ‘black flags of Khurasan,’ this is something that stretches back into the earliest days of Islam," TheBlaze’s national security adviser Buck Sexton told Glenn Beck last year. "It references a ‘rising up,’ if you will, of a Muslim army from a region called Khurasan, and they will have black banners."
Read more about the flags' controversial history here.
(H/T: NJ Advance Media)