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It is an odd thing to observe firsthand. It operates so smoothly there seems a naturalness to it. Yet it is far from natural. But there are parts that are natural. The juxtaposition of the natural and the unnatural generates an unsettling sense that something is amiss. It is the unnaturalness that is odd to observe firsthand.

Sheep are gentle creatures. The appearance in a field where they graze is such that a flock may be mistaken for hay bales freshly harvested, waiting only for collection.

A flock of sheep is harmony itself. Occasionally, a young one will stray, and sometimes is lost. Usually the young adventurer can be found, readily rejoining the mother, marred, marginally if at all.

In the main, sheep are easy to move from place to place. They have a timidness, almost a fearfulness, of being separated from the masses. They are content to follow one another, with little concern for destination. Their movement en masse is made the more magical and mystical when aided by trained and loyal dogs. Tongues toggling, tails twitching, they toil tirelessly for a touch or a tidbit from their taskmaster.

Docilely led to slaughter

Sheep are docile. They readily submit when they are sheared of fleece. Though bare of their wooly provenance, they give but a bleat to be so shorn. Shivering in shyness, made more mild by nakedness, they but stand closer, as though to deny the event.

The flock looks lovingly on, queuing in mild disorientation, as one by one they are taken aside for special attention. There is no complaint from the sideline as the scene unfolds, the pile of wool becoming so large it interferes, and it must be routinely taken from sight.

In this, help is required, as steward shearers are a simple surplus. Even for a small flock, the pile can become embarrassingly large. Sheep are lucky they have no gold in their teeth.

There is a market for more. A flock of sheep is but mutton in a pre-package phase. The means by which they are deceived to deliver themselves is a devilish thing to behold.

Sheep have trusting souls, accepting readily any leadership displaying boldness, no matter how strange the disguise and deportment. They readily follow such an unsheeplike thing as a goat, displaying itself before them in the drape of a sheep.

At the door of the house of slaughter there is such a strange animal, known as the Judas goat, named for an ancient traitor of humanity's tenderness and striving for higher ideals. He leads the flock to the abattoir. They follow, one by one, down the defile to the throat slitting and the self-sacrifice. There is now no throat that might give warning or cause alarm.

The Judas goat passes with immunity the point where the butcher's blade awaits the unwary. His usefulness extends. He is spared ... for now.

HARUN RASHID is a scientist avidly interested in the application of Islamic principles in international affairs. The promotion of goodwill through civilisational dialogue motivates his writing. His Worldview column is a personal analysis of Malaysian affairs from a global perspective. [#1][Worldview archives][/#]