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Maldives police to probe foul-mouthed wedding ceremony

media captionMaldivian High Commissioner to UK, Dr Farahanaz Faisal: "The whole country is shocked"

Police in the Maldives are to launch an investigation after a foreign couple who thought they were renewing marriage vows were in fact being subjected to a torrent of abuse.

A video has emerged of the unidentified Western couple taking part in the ceremony at the Vilu Reef resort.

Instead of words of blessing, the celebrant calls the couple "swine" and "infidels" in the local language.

The hotel has apologised for the "unforgivable conduct" of its staff.

"The management of the resort is deeply saddened by this humiliating event," the hotel said in a statement.

The Maldives' Deputy Tourism Minister, Ismail Yasir, told the BBC the government was "very concerned" by the incident.

"We have asked the resort to inform us what action they have taken. We have also requested a formal inquiry into the matter from the police," he said.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said the incident could damage the country's reputation as a tourist haven.

The amateur film of the ceremony, posted on the video sharing website YouTube a few days ago, shows the couple sitting in a makeshift shelter on the beach, surrounded by local people.

The bride is wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet, while incense, official-looking documents and wedding rings lie on the table in front of them.

'Frequent fornication'

The celebrant explains the ceremony in English before everyone stands and holds their hands up to pray.

But instead of words of blessing, the celebrant uses the intonating style of prayers to unleash a torrent of abuse about the couple in the Dhivehi language.

"Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel - and we have reason to believe - an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion," the Minivan newspaper quotes him as saying.

"You fornicate and make a lot of children. You drink and you eat pork. Most of the children that you have are marked with spots and blemishes. These children that you have are bastards."

The camera focuses on the paperwork in front of him, which local media say was not a marriage document but employment contracts - he then begins to read from these.

The celebrant also makes references to bestiality, sexual diseases and "frequent fornication by homosexuals".

Local outrage

After the ceremony, the couple are taken to plant a coconut tree together, during which various comments are made about the bride's breasts.

Mr Yasir told the BBC most people in the Maldives were furious about what had taken place and he hoped the couple would be given compensation.

"We are embarrassed as well, and very outraged," he said of the tourism ministry.

He said tourism was vital for the country and denied that the incident was a symptom of antagonism between local people and tourists.

"I am sure almost all Maldivians are aware that tourism is the main industry in the Maldives and is very important."

Mr Yasir said wedding and vow renewal ceremonies were held successfully all the time and that he was sure the incident at Vilu Reef had been a one-off.

"We would like to assure everyone who would like to come to Maldives that we will take such incidents seriously and we will take action.

"We don't want for such incidents to be characterised as normal in the Maldives and I am sure it is not so."

Vilu Reef hotel, run by Sun Hotels and Resorts, charges $1,300 (£820) for the ceremony, which it says offers couples the chance to "mark a milestone in your amazing journey together".

The company says the celebrant has been suspended and it is taking disciplinary action against staff.

Manager Mohamed Rasheed told the AFP news agency: "The man had used filthy language. Otherwise the ceremony was OK."

He said the couple had received an apology.