GARWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey man’s expression of religious freedom is stirring up controversy after residents raised concerns over a flag flying outside his home.
Mark Dunaway held up the black flag of Islam he has been flying outside of his Garwood home for the last 10 years—a sign of his religion.
“This is just me expressing that I am a Muslim, that’s it,” he said.
The flag is also the symbol of ISIS, the militant group trying to take over Iraq and create a Sunni Islamic state.
Just last week, President Obama made good on a threat of air strikes against the group after fears of a potential genocide and as thousands remain trapped by ISIS in Iraq’s northern mountains.
As CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Dunaway’s flag raised eyebrows after pictures of it went viral.
The flag has since been replaced by a light blue San Diego Chargers flag, but residents say they are still a bit uneasy about the situation.
“It is wrong, but he can also fly any flag that he wants to, it is America,” Garwood resident James McHugh said. “But at this time, he should not be flying that flag under the circumstances that we are going through right now.”
Joseph Kenyon saw the flag on Tuesday night and was alarmed, “given what’s going on right now in other parts of the world.”
“There’s concerns and people start asking questions and they want to know what’s going on and they want to know if there’s a chance of something bad happening in their neighborhood,” Sal Piarulli said.
Dunaway voluntarily took down the flag when approached by police and said he didn’t mean any harm, Carrasco reported.
“It does not have anything to do with ISIS. Like I said, people use flags for different reasons, that was not my intentions at all,” he said. “It may sound like I’m pleading ignorance. I had no idea, because I try not to get involved and pay attention to that stuff.”
Dunaway said he was not sure whether he would raise the flag again, even though he would like to. He said he has flown the flag every Friday and during the month of Ramadan for several years without issue.
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