A New Jersey man said he hadn’t realized the flag he’s flown in front of his home for years had been adopted by the jihadist Islamic State.
Mark Dunaway, who converted to Islam more than 10 years ago, said he flies the “Black Standard” every week alongside a red Muslim flag above the front porch of his Garwood home.
“I hang it every Friday and every Ramadan which ended not too long ago and I keep it up a little longer than I normally do,” Dunaway said. “I guess some people saw it and got offended so I took it down. I do not support any militant group or anything like that.”
But his display made national news this week after investment manager and former Israeli paratrooper Marc Leibowitz posted a photo of the flag on Twitter and notified Homeland Security.
The photo drew more than 500 comments on social media and prompted police to question Dunaway.
Garwood Police Chief Bruce Underhill denied police ordered the flag removed, but said Dunaway voluntarily removed it.
“This is nuts to me,” Dunaway said. “It was not my intention to offend anybody. This is not new. I’ve been doing this for 10 years.
The Islamic State group has beheaded Christians and other minority groups as part of brutal campaign to impose a fundamentalist Islamic government in Iraq and Syria, but Dunaway said he was unaware the jihadist group had adopted the flag a friend gave him years ago.
“I try not to watch that stuff,” Dunaway said. “I try not to get involved. I had no idea. This is just some that is part of my regular routine that I hang up.”
The flag, which reads “The only God is Allah” in Arabic, represents the black banner carried by the Prophet Muhammad and is a variation of flags used for nearly 1,000 years.
The Islamic State flag places the Islamic creed above the seal of Muhammad and has also been used by al Qaeda.
Some neighbors told Fox News they noticed the flag about three months ago but did not talk to Dunaway about it because they did not know him well and he didn’t seem approachable.
But another neighbor told The Star-Ledger that Dunaway was harmless and kept mostly to himself.
“He’s absolutely flown it many times before,” said Diane Figueiredo. “I’m more concerned about the crazy people saying they’re going to retaliate and set his house on fire. They’re the extremists.”
Dunaway replaced the flag with another showing the logo of the San Diego Chargers, and he plans to display a Los Angeles Kings flag next.
Leibowitz said he regretted reporting the flag now that he has heard an explanation.
“If he doesn’t see it as an ISIS flag and it’s not an expression of support for a terrorist organization, then I feel terrible for having caused an invasion of his privacy and any embarrassment in the community,” Leibowitz said.
Watch this video report posted online by WCBS-TV: