What do the protests in Egypt mean for Southwest Georgia?

Protestors in Egypt

So far, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is managing to hold onto power but his future and the future of Egypt's relationship with America is very uncertain. It's that uncertainty that worries people the most.

79 million people call Egypt home and for the last several days, many of them have taken to the streets in violent protests.

The state religion is Islam, which has sparked concerns about the spread of terrorism.

Mohammad Okashah is a local businessman and the head of the Islamic Center of Albany.

He doesn't understand why some Americans have concerns about a democratic Egypt at the same time the U.S. is creating democracies in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. "If we try to spread freedom then we need to spread it and have real democracy, not just a dictatorship," said Okashah.

He insists the uprising in Egypt has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Egypt's rampant unemployment. "You can see in the street â" young people, graduates of universities," said Okashah. "They need some help. They need work. They have to have some freedom."

According to Economics Professor Aaron Johnson, the U.S. has its own financial concerns about the situation in Egypt. "When you're looking at our tenuous recovery, certainly, world events can have an impact on that," said Johnson.

Johnson told us that America's economic interest in Egypt boils down to one thing: oil. That means if there is a change in leadership and economic philosophy, Southwest Georgians are most likely to feel the impact at the gas pump. "There's concern that this could lead to significant disruption when it comes to high oil prices, when it comes to maintaining the balance in the Middle East," he added.

Higher energy costs for businesses and consumers can depress stock prices, just as the DOW seemed poised to eclipse the 12,000 mark. "You'll probably see a lot of turbulence for the next day or two but I think once we get a better handle, once things stabilize, if they stabilize in Egypt, then the activity in the stock market will start to calm down," said Johnson.

Another potential problem is that a weaker Egypt could lead to a stronger Iran, a country that's certainly no friend of the United States or Israel â" and one that appears determined to develop nuclear weapons.

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