“September 11th seems to be a particular day for liberty,” the vice-president of the North Rhine-Westphalia Parliament Angela Freimuth said. “Particularly today, relating to the ending of the freedom of universities in North Rhine-Westphalia.”
The Free Democratic Party (FDP) politician's words were greeted with cries of rage from members of all parties, while others were stunned into silence by Freimuth's comparison between terrorist atrocities and education reform.
Freimuth, who is also vice-president of the USA friendship group in the state parliament, made the comments while wearing a USA scarf. She tried to clarify her statement and fight through the questions of her colleagues, but to no avail.
The 48-year-old ultimately had to apologize to calm the situation, saying that “if the impression was given that the two events were comparable, that wasn't my intention and I'm sorry."
"I would never want to give such an impression,” she added.
Phil Zeni, an American living in Hamburg and vice-chairman of Republicans Abroad in Germany, was baffled by the comparison.
"I don't think the fact that there were terrorists doing one thing and then 13 years later elected legislators doing something else in a nation known for its excessive regulation have anything to do with one another," he told The Local.
Zeni didn't think many American expatriates would let the overblown rhetoric get to them.
"It's your country, and you can run it any way you want, and we don't have the right to vote. We should just smile and put up with it," he said.
The new university law was ultimately passed and will come into effect after a year's transition period.
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and FDP politicians have been arguing against plans by the governing Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Green coalition to allow the state government in Düsseldorf more control over academic research.
They say that politicians micromanaging academics would not only hinder research, but also have serious economic consequences.
University presidents and business leaders in the state lent their support to the right-wing opposition's resistance to the bill.
SPD state research minister Svenja Schulze said that the government was simply bringing the law into line with other German states.