A 44-year-old Muslim convert says it was news to him that the flag he hung outside his house is the same banner waved by the murderous jihadist group known as Islamic State.
Neighbors and passersby who took to Twitter were alarmed at the black flag emblazoned with the Arabic words “The only god is Allah” flying from above the porch of Mark Dunaway, in Garwood, N.J. The chilling banner flew next to a red flag of Islam, but Dunaway said he never intended to show support for the terrorist group infamous for beheading Christians.
"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 told FoxNews.com. “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.”
The flag flap in the small town 20 miles west of New York blew up on Tuesday with a tweeted photo of Dunaway’s home with the ISIS flag displayed along with what appeared to be a Turkish flag but which Dunaway insisted was a "flag of Islam."
The tweet was sent out by Marc Leibowitz, an investment manager with Oppenheimer and a former Israeli paratrooper. The photo drew nearly 500 comments and prompted a visit by local police officers.
Garwood Police Chief Bruce Underhill denied that the police “ordered” the flag to be removed, but said residents at the suburban home “voluntarily” agreed to remove the flag.
Dunaway, who converted to Islam more than 10 years ago, said the flag was given to him by a friend years ago and that he was unaware that it was used by the Islamic State, the jihadist group that claims to have established a “caliphate” state of strict Sharia law in Iraq and Syria. The group has drawn international condemnation for its unspeakable brutality and intolerance of non-Muslims.
“This is nuts to me,” Dunaway said to FoxNews.com. “It was not my intention to offend anybody. This is not new. I’ve been doing this for ten years.
Dunaway said he had never even heard of Islamic State until this week.
“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 is known as a “Black Standard” and represents the black banner carried by Muhammed and is one of many variants believed to have been used for nearly 1,000 years. The particular black standard used with the Shahada, or the Islamic Creed, placed above the historical seal of Muhammed.
The flag has been seen in use since 2001 and is dubbed “The Black Flag of Jihad and has been used by Al Qaeda, al-Shabaab, the Islamic Courts Union and Hizbul islam.
After taking the offending flag down, Dunaway replaced it with one bearing the logo of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers flag and kept up the other flag. He says that he often rotates the flags mostly of sports teams that he follows.
Neighbors say that they started noticing the particular flag three months ago but never confronted him about it as he mostly kept to himself and did not seem approachable.
“Everyone is cautious,” said one neighbor who declined to give her name.
Dunaway still has the flag and displayed it in front of his home on Wednesday afternoon for FoxNews.com when asked by a reporter. He said that he was surprised by the messages he saw on online.
“I saw all the comments on Twitter and how one of them said they wanted to cut my head off,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘Is this a joke?’”
He also said that he will not display the flag as long as the Islamic State is in the news and continues their terror offensive across Iraq, but that he hopes to let the flag fly again…in due time.
“I hope they [the Islamic State] goes away real soon,” he said. “I hope I can display my flag again with no problem.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych