A European couple who thought they were taking part in a ceremony in the Maldives to reaffirm their marriage vows were actually being abused and insulted in the local language by a hotel employee, according to police.
Police have arrested the marriage celebrant who abused the couple in the Maldivian language, Dhivehi, as "swine" and "infidels" during the ceremony at an upmarket resort fringed by white sand and turquoise water, an official said today.
A video of the ceremony, during which the hapless couple are taunted and subjected to a series of insulting and religious-tinged abuse, was posted on YouTube, bringing fears for the country's tourism-dependent economy.
The hotel had initially identified the victims as Swiss, but a highly placed tourism source in the Maldives told AFP said they were in fact French. Police declined to confirm their nationality.
A Maldivian police spokesman, Ahmed Shiyam, said the marriage celebrant and another hotel employee were taken before a magistrate who ordered them to be detained for five days. "Both are being held at a police station in Male," he said.
The Maldivian president, Mohamed Nasheed, announced that his government will introduce strict guidelines on conducting wedding ceremonies in the nation of tiny coral islands, which is known as a top honeymoon destination.
The British comic Russell Brand and his bride, the American pop star Katy Perry, are the latest celebrities to head to the Indian Ocean nation for a honeymoon after tying the knot in India last weekend.
The president's office said in a statement: "All tourist hotels without exception will be required to follow the new guidelines which will be issued shortly."
Mr Nasheed expressed "disgust" at the incident and described the behaviour of those involved as "absolutely disgraceful," the statement said.
He appealed to hotel staff to be "vigilantly professional" and said: "Bad behaviour, such as that depicted in the YouTube video, can cause enormous damage to the country's tourism industry."
The ceremony took place earlier this month, but a video of it was posted on the internet by another hotel employee five days ago and since gone viral.
The Vilu Reef hotel, where the ceremony took place, said it was "unforgivable" that a staff member had read out the sexual and religious slurs in the Dhivehi language and apologised for his conduct. Staff involved in the incident are believed to have been sacked.
The couple were told: "You are swine. "The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine. 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."
The wife, wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet, and her husband smile shyly through the ceremony, which was to renew their marriage vows at a cost of US$1,300.
In front of a table decorated with incense sticks, the English-speaking couple bow their heads in prayer through the torrent of accusations, curses and swearing from the celebrant.
At the end of the 15-minute routine, they exchange rings as the staff clap, before heading onto the beach to plant a coconut tree in the sand.
The video, which contains English subtitles of abusive language, can be seen at www.youtube.com/maldivescouple