WASHINGTON – Commemorating the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Obama on Saturday urged Americans to remember that it was al-Qaida — not the Muslim faith — that hijacked and crashed four jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a grassy field near Shanksville, Pa.

Obama’s call for tolerance and calm came as anti-Muslim sentiment continues to rise in the U.S. and amid controversies over construction of an Islamic cultural center near ground zero and a Florida preacher’s aborted plan to stage a public burning of Qurans.

“… As Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” Obama said outside the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed when one of the hijacked jetliners slammed into the building. “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.”

Obama said Americans should remember the national unity and the “human capacity for good” that followed the nation’s worst act of terrorism.

In his weekly address on the radio and Internet, Obama said the lesson to be drawn from the attacks is that the nation is bound by “a set of common ideals” that can be exemplified by service.

“By giving back to our communities, by serving people in need, we reaffirm our ideals,” he said. “We prove that the sense of responsibility that we felt for one another was not a fleeting passion.”

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl echoed those sentiments in the Republican address. “Tomorrow and beyond, we should recapture the unity that allowed us to come together as a nation to confront a determined enemy,” he said.

Obama said he recognized that the country is going through “a time of difficulty” and warned against divisiveness.

“It is often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness,” he said, without mentioning the mosque site or the Florida pastor. “But on this day, we are reminded that at our best, we do not give in to this temptation.”

“It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion,” Obama said Saturday at a memorial service at the Pentagon honoring the 184 government workers and airline passengers who perished when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Defense Department headquarters.

Kyl said the U.S. must avoid complacency in the fight against a “militant Islamic ideology” that was responsible for the 2001 attacks and is behind continued plotting against the country.

“The fact that none of the subsequent attempts to attack us have succeeded seems to have removed some of the urgency and commitment so necessary to succeed in war,” he said. “A failure to appreciate what the enemy wants and how it intends to win would be fatal to our efforts to combat this ideology.”

Obama said the anniversary is a time to “renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act of terror.”

“We will never waver in defense of this nation,” the president said in his radio address. At Saturday’s Pentagon ceremony Obama said the nation’s adversaries “may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.”

“On this day, we also honor those who died so that others might live,” Obama said. “In acts of courage and decency, they defended a simple precept: I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.”