Los Angeles, CA | www.mpac.org | September 7, 2023 — The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Shams Hegab Ghoneim, one of its earliest members and a tireless advocate for human rights and interfaith dialogue. Shams passed away on September 5, 2023, at Oaknoll Retirement Residence of Iowa City after a brief illness.
Shams was a trailblazer in the Iowa community, serving as the president and vice-president of the ACLU of Iowa, the first Arab and Muslim to do so. She was also a leader and organizer for MPAC, served as the Human Rights Commissioner for Iowa City, sat on the advisory board for the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, and was a member of the editorial board of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Shams was named chair and co-chair of the University of Iowa Council on Disability Awareness (CDA) and was actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and advocacy in the community. She was the president of the Iowa City Consultation of Religious Communities (CRC), director of the executive board of the Iowa City Mosque, and a support group member for the Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids, the first house of worship built for Muslims and the oldest existing mosque in the country. Shams was a longtime volunteer at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital where she also served as chair of the volunteers.
Shams leaves behind a legacy of public service, dedicating much of her life to helping others and the never-ending struggle for a more just world. Shams was known for her rare combination of following the tradition of our prophet (PBUH) in being gentle and compassionate with everyone, but being firm in standing for justice and for the downtrodden.
She is survived by her husband Mohamed, her brother Yehya Hegab, son Omar, daughter Natasha, granddaughters Mahri and Lila, daughter-in-law Ami Novoryta, son-in-law Craig Atkinson, and the extended Ghoneim, Rashad, and Hegab families in Egypt.
MPAC extends its deepest condolences to Shams’ family and friends during this difficult time. We will miss her dearly, and pray that God grants her the highest levels of paradise.