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America "will never be at war with Islam", says Obama

world Updated: Sep 12, 2010 02:15 IST
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As he led Americans in remembering the victims of the 9/11 attacks, President Barack Obama on Saturday pledged that the US will "never be at war" with Islam as it was dreaded terror group Al-Qaeda which attacked the country, not a religion.

Addressing fellow citizens on the heels of a Florida pastor threatening to burn copies of Quran and the controversy surrounding plans to build a mosque near the Ground Zero, Obama said the terrorist elements may seek to spark conflict between different faiths. The pastor has since abandoned the plans.

"...but as Americans we are not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us that September day -- it was Al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion," Obama said in his address from Pentagon, one of the sites of the attacks.

He also vowed to keep the nation safe come what may and remembered the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, Pentagon and Pennsylvania that killed more than 3,000 people.

"For our nation, this is a day of remembrance, a day of reflection, and -- with God's grace -- a day of unity and renewal," Obama said as he paid a visit to hallowed ground at the Pentagon and laid a wreath.

The main function was held at the Ground Zero site in New York City, attended by the Vice President Joe Biden.

First Lady, Mitchell Obama and her predecessor Laura Bush, attended a remembrance ceremony in Pennsylvania.

Obama said: "Today, in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al Qaeda and its allies. We will do what is necessary to protect our country, and we honor all those who serve to keep us safe."

"They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience. We do not succumb to fear, nor will we squander the optimism that has always defined us as a people," the US President said.

"The perpetrators of this evil act didn't simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself -- all that we stand for and represent in the world," Obama said in his remarks.

"They (terrorists) may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.

"They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice," Obama said.

He said as America condemns intolerance and extremism abroad, its citizens should stay true to its traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation.

"We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses -- as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building," he said.

In New York, Vice President Joe Biden read a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "Build today, then strong and sure, With a firm and ample base; And ascending and secure. Shall tomorrow find its place."