Fred Phelps' daughter: 'Westboro Church has already burned Qurans'

The Kansas City StarSeptember 9, 2010 

One of those angry at a Florida preacher's plans to mark Sept. 11 by setting fire to copies of the Quran is Shirley Phelps Roper, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church.

While she joins Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus, the White House, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and many more, Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps' lawyer daughter, is hardly a voice for religious tolerance.

Her irritation Wednesday was not that the Rev. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center's planned bonfire would offend Muslims worldwide and probably increase the danger to American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's that in 2008 she and her father's Topeka flock set fire to a Quran in plain view on a Washington, D.C., street and nobody seemed to care.

"We did it a long time before this guy," Phelps-Roper said by telephone from a street corner in downtown Chicago, scene of the latest Westboro picket — against Jews this time, not gays.

The difference could be that in 2008 many news media outlets had decided to ignore the group's routine of spewing hatred at funerals of fallen American soldiers.

So when Fred Phelps, calling Muhammad a "pedophilic gigolo," went online and invited people to attend the burning, most stayed away.

Because of the heightened media attention on the Florida demonstration, Christian Petersen of Blue Springs, a Marine veteran who helped train Iraqi security forces in 2009, speculated some Islamic extremists will seek "an eye for an eye" and retaliate. But U.S. troops probably won't change their activities.

"If an environment is hostile, one more piece of wood on the bonfire isn't going to make a difference," Petersen said.

"It's just like here in the United States. We watch the news and tend to generalize an entire culture based on the very worst elements," he said. But the Muslims he came to know "understood the difference between people in our country who are extreme in their views and those of us over there trying to help them."

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