On the ninth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama has emphasized that America is not at war with Islam. The president made his remarks at the Pentagon Memorial.
President Obama spoke after laying a wreath at the memorial to the 184 people killed when Islamist militants hijacked a commercial airliner and slammed it into the side of the Defense Department headquarters.
Flowers had been placed on many of the memorial's stone benches, each of which bears the name of one of that day's victims.
Calling the Pentagon "hallowed ground," the president told the families of those who died nine years ago their loved ones will not be forgotten.
"I thought it must seem some days the world has moved on to other things. I say to you today, that your loved ones endure in the heart of our nation now and forever," he said.
Watch Footage of the Ceremonies in New York and at the Pentagon
The president alluded indirectly to the controversy over a plan to build an Islamic center and mosque near the area of the 9-11 attacks in New York, and to a Christian minister who Friday called off his plan to burn the Quran in protest.
Mr. Obama spoke strongly in favor of religious freedom, saying Americans will not give in to the hatred and prejudice the 9-11 hijackers had sought to spread.
"They may seek to spark conflict between faiths but as Americans we are not and never will be at war with Islam," said the president. "It was not a religion that attacked that September day. It was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men who pervert religion."
The president also said the United States will be relentless in defending itself against terrorism. "They doubted our will, but as Americans we persevere. Today in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al-Qaida and its allies. We will do what is necessary to protect our country," he said.
Earlier Saturday, Mr. Obama observed a private moment of silence at 8:46, the time when the first plane crashed into New York's World Trade Center.
The president has also encouraged Americans to make September 11th a day of service to others. After speaking at the Pentagon Memorial, the president traveled to a school in Washington to help paint its walls. While there, he talked with volunteers who were making quilts for the children of service members deployed overseas.