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Obama honors Sept. 11 victims, condemns terrorists

Observing the Sept. 11 anniversary Saturday at the Pentagon, President Obama asked Americans to honor the tragedy’s victims by renewing a “sense of common purpose” and refusing to let terrorists tear down the nation’s ideals.

The highest honor that Americans can pay to those killed that day nine years ago is to do what adversaries fear most, Obama said.

“We define the character of our country,” Obama said, “and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.”

Obama spoke not far from a prayer room opened by the military weeks after the attack so that service members of all faiths could pray, read their holy books and join clerics, including an imam once a week, for services.

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As the furor continues over the possibility that an Islamic center and mosque will open blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York, Obama promised to champion the rights of every American to worship as they choose, “as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.”

The country is not at war with Islam, the president said.

“It was not a religion that attacked us that September day, it was Al Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion,” he said.

“And 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.”

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cparsons@latimes.com


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