DHAKA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied Sunday, May 6, that her country was targeting Muslims and their faith, describing the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as self-defense.
"That hurts me so much," Clinton said in an answer to a student at a Bangladeshi public forum about perceptions that the United States was against Islam, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"It's a painful perception to hear about and I deeply regret that anyone believes that or propagates it."
Clinton comments came during her visit to Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim-majority country.
Defending US policies, Clinton insisted that the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a self-defense.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Washington launched its so-called war on terror under which two Muslim countries; Afghanistan and Iraq, were invaded.
Though bin Laden was killed last May 2011 in a US raid on his mansion in Pakistan, the death of Al-Qaeda leader could not fully turn back the clock.
Since the 9/11 attacks on their country, US Muslims, estimated by 7-8 million, have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California said that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Clinton admitted that there was anti-Muslim discrimination in the US, referring it to the changing human nature.
"Is there discrimination or prejudice in the United States like in every society and country in the world? Unfortunately yes. Human nature has not changed dramatically," she said.
"There is discrimination against people of different religions, of different races, of different ethnic groups all over the world but I don't think that it is at all fair to hold up the United States" over discrimination, she said.
Clinton also argued that US laws guarantee legal protection for people.
"I believe that the United States through our laws and through our constant political dialogue has gone probably farther than anywhere else in the world in trying to guarantee legal protections for people," she said.
I would like to see more countries do more to protect the rights of minorities.
However, these laws could not prevent Muslim bashing in many cases.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the US media generally associated any foiled or potential act of terrorism with Islam and Muslims.
The US Senate Office Of Research has said that Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Amnesty International also repeatedly said that racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown dramatically in the wake of the attacks.
According to an FBI report last November, hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent in the United States in 2010.
Some analysts refer those attacks to a growing sense of discomfort with Muslims that was basically triggered by Republican presidential campaigns over the past months.
Republican-sponsored bills in at least 20 states have also introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.