(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday disputed charges that the United States is “anti-Islam,” telling an audience in Bangladesh that the perception was deeply hurtful.
“I certainly think President Obama has sent a very clear message of respect and appreciation of all religions, and in particular of Islam,” she said.
Addressing a public forum at the International School in Dhaka, Clinton was asked for her reaction to “the common perception held by many young people that the U.S. is anti-Muslim.”
“Oh, that hurts me,” she replied. “That hurts me so much, honestly. I mean, it’s a painful perception to hear about, and I deeply regret that anyone believes that or propagates it.”
Clinton defended the U.S. against the allegation, and challenged other countries to treat its minorities better.
“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 because I think that’s an important part of democracy and of recognizing that no matter what our religion or whatever our background might be, we share this planet with people from many different vantage points, and we should be respectful.”
Clinton described U.S. anti-terror actions over the past decade as “self defense.”
“We have gone after the terrorists who, personally, I do not believe is in any way reflective of Islam. I think that people who use religion, who pervert religion, for their own power or their own personal needs or their own desires are doing a great disservice to religion. And you find people who, over history, have used every religion for that purpose.”
Bangladesh, a country carved out of Pakistan amid an Indo-Pakistan war in 1971-72, is the world’s third biggest Muslim country (after Indonesia and Pakistan). Only one U.S. president has traveled to Bangladesh – President Clinton in 2000 – and Hillary Clinton’s visit at the weekend was the first by a secretary of state in nine years.
In a recent Gallup poll that found support around the world for U.S. leadership under Obama has fallen between 2010 and 2011, Bangladesh accounted for the biggest drop out of 37 Asian countries surveyed – 17 percentage points over that one-year period.