Early yesterday afternoon, University of Western Australia PhD candidate Majdi Fal entered the bathroom of the university's student mosque to prepare for his regular afternoon prayers. Opening the door, Fal discovered a bloody pig's head lying in the basin of the traditional Turkish toilet he had intended to use. He called security, took photographs, and posted image of the scene on his Facebook page.
Detailing the grim find he noted, "I was getting ready to do my regular prayers at UWA Mosque. As soon as I opened the toilet's door, I found a dead pig's head inside. The toilet is a traditional Turkish toilet used mostly by Muslims for their ablution before performing their prayers. Needless to say, if this happened at a university, then THINGS ARE ESCALATING."
He later told the university's student magazine Pelican that, for a fleeting moment "I thought it could have been a human head."
In an official statement, the University of Western Australia described the incidence as "a deplorable act," and expressed concern over the UWA Muslim prayer room being targeted. The statement went on: "We would like to reinforce that UWA strives to support a culturally inclusive and tolerant campus community and the University will offer help and support to our Muslim students at this time."
The university's student union has also been quick to condemn the incident via their official Facebook page. "Acts like this are designed only to incite religious and racial hatred," said the student union, which also pledged to investigate, offered support services to students, and encouraged anyone with information to get in touch.
Nazim Khan, an academic and Executive Officer of the UWA Muslim Students Association, told VICE that yesterday's incident as totally surprising. "We never expected something like this would happen, and nothing so serious has happened before." But while he adds that incidences of harassment on campus had been few and far between, they're not unheard of. Earlier in the year, an unknown person attempted to gain access to the key-code protected prayer room.
Majdi also referenced the previous incident in his Pelican interview, calling it "minor" and commenting that "this is the first time something major has happened at UWA." He also stressed that despite the aggressive act, it didn't change his feelings about the wider university. "I'm sure the people who did this think for themselves and only represent themselves."
Muslim students are prominent on the UWA campus. The student mosque is situated next to a pedestrian thoroughfare, and is one of the first landmarks that students pass on their way to class from the main campus bus stop. The UWA Muslim Students Association Facebook page has over 1,000 likes, and the group recently won a campus award for hosting "the most inclusive student event" of 2015.
The Muslim Students Association is now cooperating with UWA's administration, student union, and the police to investigate the incident and protect the university's Muslim students. Khan notes that security surrounding the mosque will have to be immediately upgraded. "We had been discussing this in general, but after this incident the process will have to be fast-tracked. We will necessarily have to be more aware and vigilant."
Majdi Fal hadn't responded to VICE's request for comment at the time of writing.