Hillary Clinton
Hillary ClintonIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she was deeply hurt by charges that the United States was biased against Muslims, adamantly defending America’s record in protecting minorities.

Clinton, visiting the world’s third largest Muslim-majority country Bangladesh, was asked by a student at a public forum about perceptions that the United States was against Islam, the AFP reported.

“That hurts me so much,” Clinton said. “It’s a painful perception to hear about and I deeply regret that anyone believes that or propagates it.”

Clinton said that the decade of U.S.-led war on terror was “self-defense” after the September 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda, and she said extremists “perverted” the teachings of Islam.

“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 asserted.

“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 stated.

“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. I would like to see more countries do more to protect the rights of minorities,” she continued.

Clinton is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Bangladesh since 2003 amid concern over political infighting that has long polarized the country.

According to reports, a senior U.S. State Department official said Clinton’s visit was aimed at fostering the cooperation between Washington and Dhaka on everything from counter-terrorism and U.N. peacekeeping to global health and food security.

“Her visit is an opportunity to show Bangladesh's government and 160 million citizens that America is truly Bangladesh's partner,” the official said.