A New Jersey man has drawn the ire of his neighbors and the scrutiny of police by hanging a black, Arabic-lettered flag outside his home that is often associated with the radical terrorist group ISIS.
Garwood resident Mark Dunaway, 44, a Muslim, removed the flag that is often shown in the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and told NJ.com
that he is not a supporter of the militant jihadist group.
"I understand now that people turn on CNN and see the flag associated with jihad, but that's not the intention at all," Dunaway insisted to NJ.com. "Every Muslim uses that black flag. You'll find it in any mosque in the world. I am an American citizen and I love my country, but I am also a Muslim and I use that flag to say, 'I am Muslim.'"
However, when neighbors spotted the flag, they became upset and posted photos of it on Twitter. The local police became involved.
Garwood Police Chief Bruce D. Underhill told the Washington Free Beacon
that officers had visited the home and "have taken the appropriate steps. At this time, the flag in question has been voluntarily taken down. No further comments."
"It's not meant to be a symbol of hate," Dunaway told NJ.com. "Islam is all about unity and peace. I am not part of any group like that, and I'm not anti-American."
ISIS, the recent target of airstrikes by the U.S. Air Force, is a heavily armed terrorist group attempting to install an Islamic emirate by taking over parts of Iraq and Syria, while often seen waving the same flag in videos. Thousands have died, and ISIS has been accused of serious war crimes
Ed Bergin, a retired New Jersey police officer, told Pix11.com
, "I know ISIS is a Sunni terrorist organization that's committing atrocities in Iraq right now. For a man to fly a flag like that, authorities have to get involved in it."
Dunaway told NJ.com that the flag says in Arabic,"There is only one god, Allah, and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger," and is not ISIS-specific.
While Bergin termed Dunaway a "loner," his neighbor Diane Figueiredo told NJ.com, "He's totally harmless. He's absolutely flown it many times before. 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 says he has flown the flag every Friday and during the Muslim holiday Ramadan for the past 10 years with no problems. Neighbor James McHugh told CBS
, "It is wrong, but he also can fly any flag he wants to. It is America."
Republican Sal Piarulli, who is running for mayor, told NJ.com, "It is well within an individual's right to fly a flag but if, in fact, this is an ISIS flag, I do find it disturbing."
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