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Islamic Flag at Lewisville Home Raises Eyebrows

Local News, Notes and Events
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2014/12/17 16:10:00 (26090 reads)

Open in new windowOpen in new windowBy Steve Southwell

LEWISVILLE - A Muslim family in Lewisville didn’t realize their religious flag was causing a stir - not until people started coming by to take pictures, and a journalist from a local TV station came to their house. To many Americans, the sight of a black flag with Arabic writing on it invokes an association with some very visible (but different) symbols in use by violent Islamist extremist groups, such as ISIS. Last weekend, one Lewisville woman’s post on a Flower Mound Facebook group resulted in a raging debate, complete with anti-Muslim rhetoric, first amendment arguments, and even a threat from a local man to burn the house down before the thread was deleted.

The truth of the flag, as we learned from several independent sources, and a conversation with a resident from the home is much more mundane: It’s a symbol of the Shia sect of the Islamic faith. The writing on the flag, in Arabic is phonetically “Ya Abbas Alamdar”, meaning “Oh Abbas, standard-bearer”. Abbas (Al Abbas ibn Ali) is believed to be the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, and is revered by Shia Muslims as a martyr in the battle of Karbala in the late 7th century in what is present-day Iraq. In that battle, Abbas carried the standard (or flag) and was killed while trying to bring water back for the children in their camp. Shia Muslims often refer to Abbas using the honorific title Hazrat.

Open in new window
The sword is said to symbolize Zulfiqar, the name of the sword carried by Ali, who was Abbas’ father and Mohammed’s son-in-law. Shia Muslims regard Ali as the first imam. The color black is said to be a symbol of mourning, but was also a color representing the Abbasid line of caliphs.

Nisa, an 18-year-old college student who lives in the residence with her family, spoke to us Tuesday about the flag, and explained that it was just a visible symbol of their family’s Shia faith. Nisa's family is originally from Pakistan, and moved to Texas in December of 2000. They have been in Lewisville since 2003, where they moved for job-related and school-related reasons.

She explained that Muharram, the first month of the Muslim calendar is when Shias typically commemorate Abbas' brother, Imam Hussain, but that for her family, they have the flag year-round. Muharram began October 24th, and ended November 23rd. "Prior to the Facebook incident we have not had any dangerous threats, just people asking questions about the flag in a completely harmless manner," said Nisa. "Several weeks ago a news reporter from WFAA Channel 8 News came to ask about the flag and what it represented because she saw threatening posts on Twitter," she added. "We have had this flag on top of our house for about 8 years and nobody has ever complained about it."



Not a Shahada Flag or Extremist Symbol
As we mentioned earlier, for people like myself who do not have familiarity with the Arabic language, it can look like a bunch of indecipherable squiggles that are hard to tell apart from any other Arabic writing. So it’s easy to see how people might get carried away and mistake the flag for one that could have another meaning.

For example, a Shahada flag has this writing:Open in new window
While the phrase is merely a statement of faith, it has been used on the flags of several nations, but is also co-opted by some militant Islamic jihadist groups, such as Hamas and ISIS. Hamas is aligned with Sunni Islamism, and ISIS is a particularly violent Sunni extremist group that has declared a caliphate and begun ethnic cleansing, directing violence at non-Sunni Muslims, including Shias.

In recent days, hostage takers in Sydney, Austraila have displayed a Shahada flag, which some took as an ISIS flag. This article in the Sydney Morning Herald explains the differences between those flags, and shows examples.

"This new uprising of ISIS in the Middle East is causing everyone to jump to conclusions and connect any Islamic writing to ISIS (which does make sense) but again I wanted to clarify that we are of no harm to anyone," stressed Nisa.

We checked with Lewisville Police Chief Russell Kerbow, who said that the department had inquired to the FBI about the Abbas flag flying from the Lewisville home, and got the same story as what we found. “[There is] no concern at this point from a law enforcement standpoint,” said Kerbow.

Related:
- A similar controversy was in the news in England recently.
- Stop Mixing Up Islamic Flags: A Guide for Lazy Journalists

Note: We have withheld the surnames of the family as well as the person who threatened them due to the nature of the threats, and our desire not to encourage additional uncivil behavior.

Updated to correct an earlier statement that incorrectly stated that Muslims commemorate Abbas on Muharram. Muslims commemorate Abbas' brother Imam Hussain.

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