Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ireland: Court awards $8,265 to Muslim professor who says he was fired for defending female genital mutilation

A leading figure in Ireland’s Muslim community has been awarded €7,500 by the Labour Court which ruled he was unfairly dismissed by Trinity College Dublin from his role as a part-time lecturer in Arabic.  

Ali Selim, who's also spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, had appealed the level of compensation awarded by the Workplace Relations Commission in an earlier unfair dismissal action. Dr Selim had sought reinstatement to his formal role or alternatively the maximum award of 2 years’ salary, that would amount to in excess of €18,000.  

The commission had awarded him €4,000 for his unfair dismissal. It had also ordered TCD to pay €1,644 for non-payment of notice and €500 for not receiving his written terms of employment.  

At a Labour Court hearing last month, Dr Selim claimed he had been fired from his teaching post following comments he made during an appearance on RTÉ in February 2018.  

The academic, who was represented by the Irish Federation of University Teachers, claimed the university had contrived to make his position redundant after TCD Students’ Union had called for his dismissal.  

During an interview on an edition of Prime Time, Dr Selim claimed female circumcision was acceptable in some cases. The lecturer, who had worked in Trinity since 2010, subsequently apologised for his remarks and said he condemned female genital mutilation, which is illegal in Ireland, in the strongest terms. He also claimed his comments had been misrepresented.  

TCD strenuously denied that Dr Selim’s dismissal was linked to his Prime Time appearance. It claimed he had been made redundant as a result of a decision taken in January 2018 to create a new full-time post of assistant professor in Middle Eastern History, for which Dr Selim had applied but was unsuccessful  

Dr. Selim argued the job description for the new post was designed to ensure he wouldn't be considered the best applicant. The Labour Court heard the university had suspended Dr Selim’s classes for a week after the comments he made on RTÉ "to allow the matter to settle".  

The university claimed his classes were not a core element of any degree course and there was "insufficient student interest" in taking up his optional Arabic classes in the 2018/19 academic year to make his teaching hours viable.  

Outlining its ruling, the Labour Court said Trinity had failed to establish that Dr Selim’s position had become redundant. Trinity had claimed that 2 out of 4 classes given by Dr Selim were no longer being offered by the college while another was suspended because it didn't fit into its programme.  

However, the Labour Court said it was illogical that Trinity also maintained at the same time that the majority of Dr Selim’s role had been taken over by the new assistant professor. It said it didn't see the reinstatement or re-engagement of Dr Selim by Trinity as a practical option.  

Labour Court chairman Kevin Foley said it considered Dr Selim had suffered financial loss, although it was unable to determine the degree to which he taken steps to mitigate his loss apart from saying he had applied to other universities for teaching positions.  

The court ruled that a sum of €7,500 was a "just and equitable" award in all the circumstances. Dr Selim said he was "thrilled" with the outcome of the hearing as it "confirmed my claim was genuine".

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