Black Flag in Jersey: A Jihadist Identifier Camouflaged

Dawn Perlmutter is the Director of the Symbol Intelligence Group and one of the leading subject matter experts (SME) in symbols, symbolic methodologies, unfamiliar customs and ritualistic crimes. She designed and developed Jihad-ID, a symbolic database of the signs, symbols and identifiers of global jihad.


bbOn Tuesday August 12, Marc Leibowitz alerted Homeland Security that a black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) was hanging on a house in Garwood, New Jersey. As a former Israeli paratrooper he understood the importance of reporting suspicious activity. The black flag that was hanging in New Jersey is an indisputable identifier of jihadist terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. It is one of several variations of the ‘Black Flags of Jihad’. It is a variant design of the Black Standard Al-Rāya flag a.k.a. The Black Banner, Banner of the Eagle and The Banner. The white writing is the shahada, the declaration of Islamic faith: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. In this variant the second phrase of the shahada is in the form of the historical signet ring seal of the Prophet Muhammad in the center circle. The black flag is found in terrorist emblems, websites and often appears in violent protests. On September 11, 2012 angry protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced the American flag with the same black flag that was hanging on the porch in this Jersey neighborhood.

The black flag signifies the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad. It also denotes an end times concept called the Black Flags of Khorasan that refers to a Muslim Army that will rise from the land of Khorasan carrying black flags/banners. Khorasan is a geographic area that includes parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. According to hadiths this army will conquer several occupied lands of Muslims till it reaches Jerusalem. The final battle is to take place in the Levant – Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. The name of the terrorist group ISIS, an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham refers to the historical geographic area known as the Levant. Hence, the alternative acronym for their name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Al-Sham denotes the province of Bilad al-Sham that was established after the Muslim conquest of Syria. It includes what today is Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and part of Turkey. In 661 Bilad al-Sham became the seat of power of the Muslim Caliphate. The symbolism of the ISIS army’s name and black flag signifies the territory it plans to conquer as it reclaims the province of Bilad al-sham during its expansion of a new Islamic Caliphate.

Either Mark Dunaway, the 44 year old, who was flying the black flag on his home, is sympathetic to the goals of global jihad or the Muslim convert is one of their useful idiots, with the emphasis on idiot. Dunaway denied knowing what the flag represents or that he ever intended to offer support to ISIS. Symbolic evidence should always be analyzed in the context of other identifiers. Dunaway’s black flag was hanging next to what appeared to be the Turkish national flag, a red flag with the Islamic star and crescent on it. Dunaway not only claimed that he didn’t know that he had hung the ISIS flag he also insisted that the flag he hung next to it was simply a ‘flag of Islam.’ Refusing to acknowledge it is a Turkish flag is suspicious. If it was just a flag of Islam why didn’t he choose one of many other countries flags that display the star and crescent? Perhaps he didn’t want a known affiliation with Turkey. Recent reports revealed that there has been significant recruitment of Turks by ISIS, that at least 1,000 Turks were fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria and that Turkey provided Sunni jihadists, including ISIS, funding, arms and sanctuary. The Turkish flag is almost identical to the last flag of the Ottoman Empire, the only difference are slight variations in the proportions of the star and crescent. The Ottoman Empire, the last Caliphate, was abolished in 1924. The two flags together symbolize the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate. A new Islamic Caliphate is precisely what ISIS decreed when it renamed itself Islamic State.

Dunaway also claimed that he has been hanging the flag for ten years. If this is true, it is hard to believe that he did not know what it represented and even more disturbing that it was not recognized by anyone until now. This demonstrates how many people are unaware of the signs and symbols of jihad. Neighbors characterized Dunaway as a loner, one woman said that he is ‘totally harmless’. Of course neighbors of serial killers often say similar things. In FrontPage Mag Daniel Greenfield established that Dunaway may have Islamist sympathies and is not as innocent as he professed.

“A Facebook page that appears to be his shows that he ‘liked’ Zaid Shakir and Bilal Philips. Both are vile bigots and terrorism supporters. Philips was also named an unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing. He also likes Khalid Yassin who called for killing gays and the Wahhabist Abubakar Gumi. Also liked was Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari and the Islamic Emirate. These are the sorts of figures you might like if you’re a convert with Islamist sympathies. These are the sorts of Muslim figures that you’re more likely to like if you have a Salafist orientation. These are the sorts of Islamic leaders who are fairly blunt about calling for the full force of Islamic law to come down on anyone and everyone… including the United States.”

The obvious question is where did Dunaway get the black flag from, it’s not like you can just buy it at a flag store or a gift shop. Although jihadi flags, t-shirts and other terrorist gear can be purchased on-line through militant shops that operate on e-bay, Facebook and other venues. Dunaway claimed that a friend gave the flag to him years ago. If true, was it part of his recruitment process or like other homegrown terrorists was he radicalized on-line? This would not be the first time that black flags were identifiers of radicalization. Tamerlan Tsarnaev one of the Boston Marathon bombers posted a video on his YouTube page titled, The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags From Khorasan.

After the photo went viral on twitter and received media attention, a spokesman for CAIR immediately disseminated misinformation about the flag. Ibrahim Hooper told ABC News that the flag is simply “a profession of Muslim faith,” and “Every Muslim in America has this phrase somewhere in their home,” “This man just chose to put it on a flag.” Hooper added “that ISIS is a relatively new organization and Dunaway’s flag flying predates it.” The CAIR spokesman neglected to mention that prior to being the ISIS flag it was the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and is currently the flag of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the al Shabaab war flag. It also often appears on jihadist forums, Facebook and twitter pages.

CAIR’s claim that the flag is just a nonthreatening expression of Islamic faith serves to perpetuate their misinformation strategy that characterizes every incident as a form of Islamophobia and Muslim persecution. CAIR’s Muslim victimhood campaign in combination with the liberal medias reluctance to further investigate these seemingly innocuous incidents results in good citizens like Marc Leibowitz apologizing to Dunaway for what he now thinks is a misunderstanding. Leibowitz should be congratulated for recognizing and reporting the signs of radical Islam, not made to think he overreacted and endangered an innocent Muslim. Unfortunately this undermines the Department of Homeland Security’s national public awareness campaign ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ designed as a simple program to raise awareness of indicators of terrorism and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities. Regardless of Dunaway’s intent the result is that an obvious terrorist identifier, the ‘Black Flag of Jihad’, has been successfully camouflaged as a benign symbol of faith, protected in the media by political correctness and Muslim apologetics. Instead of focusing on a potential radicalized American citizen who had the audacity to fly the flag of ISIS news reports portrayed Dunaway as a nice guy that took his Muslim flags down because he did not want to offend his neighbors. Case closed; move on, nothing to see here. Disinformation mission accomplished.

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  • rosewood11

    Like Glenn Beck, I hope every person starts flying the flag of their preferred country/political movement–that being their right in America. Again, like Beck, I believe it is also MY right to use that information to determine who I choose to associate with, and where I spend my money. For a long time now, I have made it my practice to avoid any muslim/palestinian-owned business because I do not wish to support muslim “charities” even indirectly. Anyone flying the black flag of ISIS tells me that he doesn’t deserve my business. If enough people do this, maybe it will become economically impossible for them to stay.

  • Docs357

    There all over the USA Holder and Obama must have a list of there brothers ? Betrayed or tricked there in the offices where they can do the most harm to this nation and there taking full advantage of it

    • Michael Garfinkel

      If Leibowitz did apologize to Dunaway then this is a story of two useful idiots, emphasis on idiots.

  • talljohn777

    Unfortunately, it will come down to us or them and they are not planning to stop until we or they are all dead. I vote for killing them first…

  • the old skeptic

    Take a stand. Close the mosques and expel the Muslims. This means ALL the Muslims, starting with the military and the DofHLS. This could be described as clearing the decks in preparation for decisive action.

  • DontMessWithAmerica

    A so-called moderate Muslim may be just that – a guy born into a Muslim family and like many so-called Christians is not a practicing one and not knowing much about his religion. I’ve known a couple like that. But when you get a convert to Islam, you have a dangerous person. Any adult convert to any religion is already a little nuts and if converted to Islam then he is a dangerous nut. The world is now learning from non-Muslims in Iraq who had moderate, friendly Muslim neighbors who turn violent when ISIS arrives and these friendly neighbors become killer-neighbors. Watch your neighbors and particularly if they are converts.

  • Enzo

    Let them hang their flags, let the woman wear their hijabs, this lets us know who they are. The self imposed scarlett letters letting us know where they are, they are confident now,soon they won’t want to rick waiving that hate flag around.