How did an Islamic State flag end up in Edmonton? Flag sellers offer theories

A few years ago, Arif Dewji, owner of House of Flags and Banners in Coquitlam, B.C., got an odd request from a prospective customer.

A man who seemed to be based in New York sent over the design of a flag he wanted printed.

At first Dewji did not know the meaning of the white logo set against a black backdrop, but something seemed fishy. After some online digging, he realized it was the flag used by followers of the Islamic State terror group.

“I didn’t touch it with a dirty shirt,” he said.

Edmonton police have said an Islamic State flag was found last weekend in a vehicle involved in what they are investigating as a terrorist attack. Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, a 30-year-old Somali refugee, is accused of hitting a police officer with a speeding car, stabbing him and then mowing down pedestrians with a cube van. He faces 11 charges, including five counts of attempted murder. Sharif does not currently face any terrorism charges.

Dewji said he doubts anyone in Canada would have been able to get his hands on a professionally made flag locally, but it’s possible it came from China. Images of the flag come up in search results on the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, but not on eBay or Amazon.

Dewji told the would-be client he wouldn’t print his flag.

“Basically the conversation went dead and he just hung up the phone.”

Phyllis Bright, owner of The Flag Shop in Edmonton, said she had a similar inquiry this summer.

A man called asking for an Islamic State flag to be printed and, when she refused, he asked for a plain black one instead. Presumably he intended to stencil on the logo in white paint.

At first she didn’t think much of it. Bright said she is sometimes sheepishly asked for Confederate flags, which are seen as a symbol of America’s history of slavery, and she declines.

“The more I thought about it, the more fearful I became,” Bright recalled.

“It really scared us because I think until last weekend we felt very sheltered in Edmonton and the fact that someone would even ask about it was very scary.”

She did not have the man’s name, but she tracked down his number, which was local. She called the RCMP, who referred her to the Edmonton police. She said the police told her there wasn’t much they could do based on just a flag request, but that they’d keep the information on file.

Bright said she has no idea where someone could have picked up the flag found in Edmonton, but she added it looked professionally done in photos she saw in the news.

Both Dewji and Bright said their businesses refuse to sell flags emblazoned with symbols associated with hatred, such as Nazi swastikas, unless it’s for a legitimate purpose such as a film or stage production.

The flag associated with the Islamic State is black with white Arabic writing along the top. Below that is a white circle with black writing that is meant to portray the seal of the prophet Muhammad. A flag with a similar design has been used by members of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. Many jihadist groups use some variation of a black flag with white script, sometimes referred to as a “black standard.”

The design has sown so much confusion and fear that when a Zurich man hung a black-and-white Jack Daniel’s whiskey flag in his window, neighbours raised concerns, said a report in the U.K. tabloid The Sun.

Inscriptions on the Islamic State flag together make up a basic declaration of faith recited by Muslims around the world — that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is his prophet. Mainstream Muslims have been angered to see the message appropriated by the terror group in such a way.

Andre Gerolymatos with Simon Fraser University’s terrorism, risk and security studies program likens using the flag to white supremacists using a Christian cross.

“It just shows that these people are trying to exploit peoples’ sentiments and beliefs by perverting them.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off 2018 dancers revealed

In partnership with 2019 Canada Winter Games

Local haunted house offers a chilling Halloween experience

Chad and Jarita Carlson’s annual venture also supports the Lacombe Food Bank

Local church welcomes LGBTQ community

Gaetz Memorial United Church declares itself an Affirming Ministry

At mid-mandate and with extra cash, Liberals to chart fiscal course toward 2019

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government, right at the midpoint of its mandate,… Continue reading

Voter turnout down in this election

The voter turnout was estimated to be about 17 per cent, down from previous election

WATCH: A magical Harry Potter weekend in downtown Red Deer

Wizards, witches and muggles are flocking to downtown Red Deer to celebrate… Continue reading

Jason Kenney will be in Red Deer on Monday

The UCP candidate is hosting a series of town hall

Sylvan’s talent on display for fundraising show

Sylvan Lake Refugee Project is hosting Sylvan’s Got Talent Nov. 3

B.C. ice rink where 3 people died remains closed due to safety concerns

FERNIE, B.C. — Residents who were forced from their homes because of… Continue reading

Trudeau condemns appointment of Mugabe as WHO ambassador

EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the appointment of Zimbabwe President… Continue reading

Friday Oct. 21: Winning Lotto Numbers

Friday, October 20, 2017 LOTTO MAX Winning Numbers 1 4 12 27… Continue reading

New northbound Hwy 2 lanes at Gaetz Avenue to open this Sunday

Drivers heading north through Red Deer on Hwy 2 will have a… Continue reading

Sockey Night at Saturday’s Rebels game

United Way Central Alberta is determined to provide warm feet for all… Continue reading

Canadian planet hunter seeking alien life

‘The shifting line of what is crazy’ says Toronto-born astrophysicist

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month