Niraj Warikoo is the religion reporter for the Detroit Free Press. He graduated from Columbia College at Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism with a masters degree in journalism. Over the past decade, he’s written extensively about how the war on terrorism impacted metro Detroit’s diverse communities. Since 1998, he’s covered the biggest Arab-American population in the U.S. and the region’s sizable Muslim communities. In 2015, he was named by a BuzzFeed list as one of the Top “100 Must Follow Twitter Accounts On Muslim Affairs,” ranking alongside top experts, writers, and Muslim leaders from around the world. In 2005, he was selected to be a fellow at the University of Southern California, where he studied national security and civil liberties in the post 9-11 era. In 2008, he was invited to give a presentation on the relationship between American Muslims and the U.S. government at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London in England for an international conference on Islam in the West that featured experts and leaders from Europe, the U.S., and Arab world.
In 2015, Warikoo won a first-place SJP Detroit Excellence in Journalism award for his work on the impact of the rise of ISIS on metro Detroiters, and third-place for a profile of an evangelical pastor in Michigan. He received a first-place Excellence in Journalism award in 2011 from SPJ-Detroit for his exclusive coverage of the FBI shooting death of a Muslim leader from Detroit and was a finalist for a national NABJ award in investigative reporting. In 2014, he received a first-place Excellence in Journalism award from SPJ-Detroit for best personality profile for his story about a Michigan woman who was the first American to be killed in Syria’s civil war, and a first-place award for best localization of a national story for his story about the lives of undocumented immigrants in Michigan. Last year, he broke several stories about sexual harassment allegations against the head of an Arab-American civil rights group, which resulted in his leaving the organization.
Warikoo has been an invited speaker or panelist at universities such as the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan State, and Wayne State; and at the national conventions of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors), AAJA, SAJA, UNITY, and Poynter’s National Writers Workshop. He’s appeared on local and national TV and radio programs such as C-SPAN, CNN, CNN Headline News , MSNBC (Hardball Show with Chris Matthews, Alison Stewart and Contessa Brewer), and NPR’s Tell me More with Michel Martin (National Public Radio.) In previous years, he wrote often about workplace safety issues, including investigative reports that exposed corporate negligence in the deaths of six workers at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Warikoo also has examined the environmental destruction of Michigan’s wetlands in a special report based on new data he obtained. In 2005, he visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. to write about U.S. soldiers who became amputees after serving in Iraq; the story examined how new technology has improved survival chances, but also brings recovery challenges for victims. In 2006, he traveled across Lebanon to write stories for the Detroit Free Press on the aftermath of the war between Hizballah and Israel, which affected communities in metro Detroit.
Warikoo has written often about Michigan’s immigrant communities, from the lives of Mexican-Americans to Vietnamese Catholics, as well as the region’s Arab-American and Muslim population — the highest concentration in the U.S. His work was profiled in a Poynter story after the Sept. 11 attacks and he became a resource for other journalists seeking to understand the region’s Arab and Muslim communities. He covered the case of a Michigan man detained on terrorism suspicions; after the government banned him and other reporters from attending court hearings, his newspaper filed a lawsuit on his behalf that was eventually won in an appeals court. In the run up to and during the Iraq war, he interviewed top leaders in Iraq’s government and political parties on their frequent visits to metro Detroit, including Iraq’s future Prime Minister.
In recent years, he’s written about a wide range of religious issues, including: the Dalai Lama’s lectures in Michigan, men and masculinity in churches, splits within the Episcopal Church, Catholic natural family planning, the growing rate of Jewish interfaith marriages, and religious belief in the end of times. In 2010, he wrote a special report that revealed the use of secret informants in the counter-terrorism case of a Muslim leader killed in a shootout in Dearborn with FBI agents. Also this year, he was the lead reporter on the FBI raid and arrests of members of a Christian militia in Michigan called Hutaree allegedly plotting against the U.S. government. Outside of work, Warikoo enjoys listening to music; he played the piano and trumpet for 10 years.Follow @nwarikoo