Hannah Allam | Michigan Radio
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Hannah Allam

Hannah Allam is a Washington-based national security correspondent for NPR, focusing on homegrown extremism. Before joining NPR, she was a national correspondent at BuzzFeed News, covering U.S. Muslims and other issues of race, religion and culture. Allam previously reported for McClatchy, spending a decade overseas as bureau chief in Baghdad during the Iraq war and in Cairo during the Arab Spring rebellions. She moved to Washington in 2012 to cover foreign policy, then in 2015 began a yearlong series documenting rising hostility toward Islam in America. Her coverage of Islam in the United States won three national religion reporting awards in 2018 and 2019. Allam was part of McClatchy teams that won an Overseas Press Club award for exposing death squads in Iraq and a Polk Award for reporting on the Syrian conflict. She was a 2009 Nieman fellow at Harvard and currently serves on the board of the International Women's Media Foundation.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

"That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game," McCown said.

As the pandemic moves from public health crisis to partisan flashpoint, the debate over the coronavirus response in the U.S. is becoming increasingly nasty – and, in some cases, violent.

The potato giveaway was as close to a feel-good story as you get these days.

A farmer in rural Idaho had thousands of potatoes he couldn't sell because of the pandemic's disruptions to the supply chain. So, volunteers — including a guy with a dump truck — hauled them to nearby small towns where they were left in giant piles for residents to help themselves.

For months, authorities say, 36-year-old white supremacist Timothy Wilson amassed bomb-making supplies and talked about attacking a synagogue, a mosque or a majority-black elementary school.

In the back of a nondescript building at the University of Maryland, a team of researchers combs through the files of homegrown extremists who have plotted attacks in the name of far-right causes.

In each case, researchers are hunting for the motivation, the ideology, that inspired the violence. That means digging into the many elements that make up the far right, as researcher Michael Jensen explained on a recent afternoon.

As Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was wrapping up her remarks to the crowd at a Ramadan gathering on Capitol Hill late Monday, she spotted a familiar face in the front row.

It was Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who was famously mocked by then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 race. Omar told the audience she remembered how Trump had belittled Khan's wife by saying he wasn't sure if Muslim women were allowed to speak.