An angry protest last month followed a call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for the Maldives to end floggings of women being punished for adultery.
Sunni Islam is the official religion in the Maldives and practising any other faith is forbidden.
Debates on religious issues have emerged since a group vandalised a monument with Buddhist imagery which had been gifted to mark a summit of The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Buddhism was part of the present Islamic republic's history.
Bhutan took a Buddhist story to the scenic island of Feydhoojetty, Adhoo, in the Maldives.
The story of four animal friends was an account Lord Buddha told his disciples. The four animals – an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit and a bird – once had a dispute over the ownership to a tree.
The biggest of them all, the elephant claimed it was his as he saw it first. The monkey claimed he had always been feeding on the fruits of the tree. The rabbit claimed he had been feeding on the leaves of the tree since it was a sapling. The bird then claimed that it had once eaten a fruit and spat out the seed which grew into the tree. The dispute was settled. The other three accepted the bird as their oldest brother and the four decided to share the tree in peaceful harmony.
This story of selfless friendship is depicted with the bird on top of the rabbit riding the monkey as it sits on the back of the elephant. This portrait is called the Thuenpa Puen Zhi or the “four harmonious brothers.”