Note: There are aspects of this story we are still researching, and may update to provide additional background and clarity, but due to the semi-viral nature of speculation on social media, we preferred to get this article out sooner rather than later. Please check back for updates later in the week.
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.
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.”
Read the full story at: Lewisville Texan Journal