Maldives Environment Minister Detained Over Allegations of ‘Black Magic’

The Maldives’ head of environment, energy and climate change has been accused of ‘black magic’

The state secretary for environment, climate change and energy of the Maldives has been jailed, reportedly on suspicion of casting spells against the country’s president. 

The Maldives are an archipelago located southwest of India, known for their sandy beaches and luxury resorts which are popular with tourists worldwide. Most of the local residents are Muslim.

Fathimath Shamnaz Ali Saleem was arrested on Sunday, along with two suspected accomplices, police in the capital, Male, said on Thursday. A magistrate has ordered her to stay in jail for a week, pending investigation.

Police did not say what Shamnaz was charged with, and declined to confirm or deny media reports that it involved “black magic” directed at President Mohamed Muizzu. 

Sorcery is not a criminal offense under Maldivian law, but those found guilty of it can be locked up for six months under Islamic law (Sharia). According to the South China Morning Post, many local residents still practice “traditional ceremonies,” seeking to bless friends and curse opponents.

Last year, a 62-year-old woman was stabbed to death by three neighbors on the island of Manadhoo, after she was accused of practicing “black magic.” The news was only reported by the portal Mihaaru last week, after a lengthy police investigation which found no evidence that the victim had performed sorcery.

During the 2011-12 political crisis, police shut down a rally by the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed, accusing its organizers of having thrown a “cursed rooster” at officers who had raided their offices.

Muizzu won the 2023 election as the challenger to the incumbent, Ibrahim Solih. The Maldives’ relations with India have since deteriorated, as Muizzu has been accused of favoring China.