Sumita Pahwa, "Politics as Worship: Righteous Activism and the Egyptian Muslim Brothers" (Syracuse UP, 2023)


Despite expectations that the deeply held political and religious organizing principles at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood would prove incompatible and contentious should the organization ever come to power, the Brotherhood succeeded in maintaining a united identity following the 2011 ousting of Hosni Mubarak and the election of a Brotherhood-majority government. 

To understand how the movement threaded these disparate missions, Politics as Worship: Righteous Activism and the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (Syracuse UP, 2023) examines the movement's internal debates on preaching, activism, and social reform from the 1980s through the 2000s. In doing so, Sumita Pahwa finds that the framing of political work as ethical conduct has been critical to the organization's functioning.

Through a comprehensive analysis of texts, speeches, public communications, interviews, and internal training documents, Pahwa shows how Islamic and religious ideals have been folded into the political discourse of the Brotherhood, enabling the leadership to shift the boundaries of justifiable and righteous action. Over a period of three decades, the movement has built an influential Islamic political project and carved a unified identity around how to "work for God."

Sumita Pahwa is an Associate Professor of Politics at Scripps College in Claremont CA, where she also teaches in the Middle East and North Africa Studies program. She grew up in India, and received her PhD from the Johns Hopkins University and a BA from Middlebury College. Her research focuses on religion and politics and social movements in South Asia and the Middle East, with older research on Egypt and Morocco, and newer research on civil society in India. Cooking and gardening are her main hobbies, and she has done informal comparative research on mango varieties in Egypt and India.

Lamis Abdelaaty is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author of Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments at

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Lamis Abdelaaty

Dr. Lamis Abdelaaty is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her book, Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Email her at
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