| Updated at: 0037 PST, Sunday, September 12, 2010|
NEW YORK: President Barack Obama told a deeply polarized America on Saturday that Islam is not the enemy as somber ceremonies marked an unusually tense ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Moving remembrance ceremonies were held to honor the nearly 3,000 people killed when Al-Qaeda extremists slammed airliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.
But with thousands of people marching in dueling protests over a proposed Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero and a Florida pastor triggering demonstrations across the Muslim world with his threat to burn the Koran, this was the most politicized 9/11 anniversary yet.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Obama addressed the politically explosive domestic debate that has enraged Muslims abroad.
"As Americans, we will 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.
He urged Americans not to succumb to "hatred and prejudice," and vowed: "Just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation."
At Ground Zero, where for the first time reconstruction work is visibly gathering pace, a youth choir opened the ceremony with the national anthem.
Vice President Joseph Biden and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among those attending the annual ritual of reading the names of all 2,752 people killed when two hijacked airliners destroyed the Twin Towers.
Bereaved relatives held up portraits of their lost loved ones under a perfectly clear sky as they listened to the litany of names read by often tearful survivors and members of the reconstruction team.